By Mannix Porterfield
Veteran Beckley Police officer Jeff Shumate is moving into the Raleigh County prosecuting attorney’s office next month, taking on a dual role as a special investigator and security adviser.
Last summer, an assistant prosecutor, Tom Truman, appealed to the Raleigh County Commission to make room in its budget for such a position, saying he and others in his office are under constant death threats from criminals.
“It’s not a comfortable spot to be in, when you and your family are on the line for doing your job,” he had said.
In Tuesday’s meeting, the commission agreed to create the new position and handed the $40,000-a-year post to Shumate, who is retiring from the Beckley Police Department, where he signed on in 1990 as a patrolman and is currently chief of the detective bureau.
Prosecutor Kristen Keller said the job was properly advertised but attracted “very few responses, I think because of the requirements of the position.”
Keller characterized Shumate as “overwhelmingly the most qualified candidate,” pointing out he has “an enormous amount of trial experience” and in working with the judicial system, accompanying her in cases before the West Virginia Supreme Court and U.S. District Court.
“He has won numerous awards as outstanding officer of the year,” the prosecutor said.
“His training will be invaluable.”
What’s more, she pointed to a number of training programs Shumate successfully completed, including criminal investigation, forensics, “and, very importantly, in the present climate, in school safety.”
Just before his appointment was approved, Shumate agreed that the role of a prosecutor can be dangerous, given the constant demand to deal with those engaged in breaking laws.
“I do think it’s important to have someone in the office that has some training as far as providing security for them,” he said.
In some respects, Shumate said, the job can put a prosecutor at risk.
“They’re probably exposed to a little more potential problems than some law enforcement officers, just due to the fact that, as a law enforcement officer, you’re always prepared for someone to obstruct you or attempt to harm you,” he said.
“From a prosecutor’s standing, their focus is in trial preparation and different types of hearings.”
In his two decades as a Beckley officer, Shumate has witnessed some dramatic changes over the law enforcement landscape.
“Electronics has been one thing that has not only changed the methods we use to investigate crimes but also changed the types of crimes you’re investigating,” he said.
“Law enforcement has progressed to be more efficient through the years, through the development of forensic types of investigations, and DNA. The progress of DNA has just been unbelievable in what it’s able to help us with at this point. What I tell the young guys, that in the next 20 years, you’ll see a complete change in the methods that you conduct criminal investigations, but also in the types of crimes you’re going to deal with.”
Without elaborating, Shumate said he feels confident that in his new role with the prosecutor he can help the county lower its annual bill to the Regional Jail Authority.
“That’s one big thing we’ll be looking at,” he added.
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