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Sheriff's dept. wants minorities, women

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department is looking for a few good women.

The department currently has 34 deputies and not one of those is female or a member of a minority group, said Sheriff Wayne Godwin.

At Thursday's Harrison County Commission meeting, Commissioner Thomas Keeley voiced his concerns that the department is not representative of the county's diverse population and has never had a female or a minority deputy.

"It's time Harrison County gets a minority or female deputy sheriff in its ranks," he said. "I'd like to see something done about it."

The department has been trying to hire minorities, Godwin said. The sheriff has offered a deputy job to at least two females in the past, but they did not accept the positions, he said.

In addition, there aren't a large number of minority applicants, Godwin said. Also, the last two women on the eligibility list did not pass the physical agility test required to get into the police academy, he said.

One of the deterrents for the positions may be that county officers work alone in their cruisers covering large distances and may be exposed to situations where there is not immediate backup, said Chief Deputy Gary Wine.

"The county officers may be 40 miles apart, and a lot of times it can be 15 to 20 minutes before backup is available," Wine said.

Having females on the force would be an asset, Wine said. At times, the department has had to rely on females from other agencies like the Bridgeport and Clarksburg police to assist in handling women suspects in certain situations, Wine said.

Although there are currently no deputy positions available, there will be after the first of the year, Wine said. There will definitely be two positions open due to officers retiring, and there may be two more if the department receives grant money from the federal government, he said.

There are less than five females and minorities on the current list of eligible candidates who have passed the civil service exam, Wine said. The list is viable for three years from its original date of July 22, 1999.

The commission is hoping to attract minorities and female candidates for the openings and has asked the sheriff to contact the Civil Service Commission to see if a new list of candidates would be eligible for the positions.

In other business, the commission approved a grant for the YMCA.

The YMCA received $52,140 in federal grant money from the West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services, according to Pat McGahan, YMCA program director.

The money will be used for the middle school program and activities to help youth improve their self-esteem, McGahan said.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.

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