Registered Agency Profile: Summers County West Virginia Sheriff’s Department

summers-county-sheriff-dept-patchRegistered Agency Profile: Summers County West Virginia Sheriff’s Department

Agency Donation Effort Contact: Sheriff Wheeler

Link: Department Website 

Number of Officers: 6

Body Camera Goal: 7

Registration Statement: The Summers County Sheriffs Department is located in Hinton WV in Summers County and has a population of approximately 13,000 people and during the summer months, population increases by about 1,000 due to the summer camps and is 367 square miles.

My department is now staffed by myself and five deputies but because of one vacancy and just being awarded a cop’s grant we will be up to seven by the first of the year or sooner. We do not have the tax base to have a budget that would cover all our needs so we rely on grants. We manage somehow to provide 24 hour seven days a week coverage due to the fact I answer calls along with my deputies and take care of the court systems.

Why has your department decided to start a body camera program?
Sheriff Wheeler: From time-to-time we have complaints about deputies when arrests are taking place (most unfounded) but all investigated and believe the body cams will eliminate any doubt when police and citizens have problems with each other and I think we will soon see them made mandatory.

How do you believe a body camera program will benefit your officers, department and the community?
Sheriff Wheeler: I believe that the body camera program will make our officers cases stronger in court and also remind them to be professional to the persons they are dealing with and to also let the public know that the situation is being monitored and hopefully be civil towards the officer thus cutting down or eliminating complaints from both parties.

Are there any situations where having body camera video evidence would have made a difference in court cases or complaints against your officers?
Sheriff Wheeler: Yes, although we have in-car cameras sometimes officers are out of view of them especially when doing DUI and vehicle searches.

Does your department have guidelines for a body camera policy? If so, what would the policy be? When would officers be required to record, etc.?
Sheriff Wheeler: They would be incorporated into our policy and procedure manuals. Deputies would be required to record on any and all traffic stops and when interviewing a suspect or anytime citizens are involved. To make a complicated situation simple and to keep officers and the public honest about complaints. We are currently working on these and hope to have them completed in the near future.