The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

April 20, 2010

Wyoming sheriff vows to pursue drug dealers

PINEVILLE — Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on the problems created by illegal prescription drugs. The series will continue next week.

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“I think the law should be a deterrent to criminals. It should be strong enough to make them afraid to commit a crime,” emphasized Wyoming County Sheriff Randall Aliff. “And once we get them in jail, they should stay put. The public deserves that.”

The sheriff understands — and shares — the public’s frustration at seeing known drug dealers, and other criminals, still walking the streets.

“We arrest them and the Constitution gives them the right to post bond. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Aliff said. “That doesn’t stop us from arresting them.

“My job is to make Wyoming County as safe as possible and that’s exactly what I’m going to do until my last day on the job,” Aliff emphasized.

Deputies never have been instructed to arrest for felonies only and ignore the misdemeanors, Aliff said.

“How that got started, I don’t know,” he said.

Since Jan. 1, the department has arrested 107 people, including both misdemeanors and felonies, he said.

Another problem Aliff faces is the false rhetoric of dealers who claim to be friends with him or one of his deputies, so there will be no charges no matter the crime, these dealers say.

“I’m a firm believer, if you do the crime and we can prove it, we’re going to arrest you. And  I don’t care who you are.

“Some of these people, we’ve arrested so many times, we do get to know them,” Aliff said.

“It doesn’t change the fact they’ve broken the law and should be in jail. But  we have nothing to do with the sentencing,” Aliff explained.

Currently, Aliff has 18 deputies to patrol the county. Two of those deputies have not been certified through State Police Academy training, which limits the types of duties they can perform, Aliff said.

Also, the department has to provide a deputy for circuit court proceedings as well as family court proceedings, and deputies must serve all civil papers within the legal time limit.

Additionally, each deputy has to appear in court periodically which pulls them from patrols; a lot of the time, deputies do this on their own time, Aliff said.

And each deputy is entitled by law to 30 days off.

“That cuts down on the men we actually have on duty, but we’re patrolling 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said.

Last month, the department responded to more than 300 calls.

Building a case that will hold up in court requires numerous man-hours, Aliff explained, and has to be done according to federal and state codes.

Laws are designed to provide civil rights protections for those accused of breaking the law, the sheriff explained.

“Just because someone believes this guy is out here selling drugs doesn’t mean I can prove it — and I have to prove it,” Aliff emphasized.

“We have to enforce the laws as they are written; it doesn’t matter if I agree or not,” the sheriff said.

Aliff is also frustrated by the governor’s proposed “early release for non-violent offenders.”

“We’ve been dealing with these people for years,” Aliff said. “They should be in jail. Ninety percent of these people we’ve arrested numerous times for different crimes. And once we get them in jail, why would you want to turn them loose? They are a menace to these communities out here.”

Among those crimes are prescription drug violations, theft and other crimes that usually lead back to the drug problem.

“Drugs are flooding this nation; it’s not just Wyoming County. And it’s all about the money,” Aliff said. “There’s a lot of money in drugs. They don’t care about the people who buy. They don’t care what it’s doing to the families or the communities. They only care about the money.

“If it were up to me, I’d allocate money to build more prisons. If they break the law — especially certain crimes relating to drugs, child abuse or hurting the elderly — they’d serve not less than five years. But that’s if I had my way about it, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying that,” Aliff said.

“Some people deserve jail time, no matter the cost. We shouldn’t have to arrest the same people over and over. The public deserves better and has every right to feel safe here.”

— E-mail: mcbrooks@register-herald.com

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