Cabell Sheriff’s Department at full force
HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Sheriff’s Department grew by four Tuesday after Sheriff Chuck Zerkle saw his 13th new deputy sworn into the position since taking office in 2017.
Matthew R. Baumgardner, Hunter B. Neil, Dennis L. Stratton and Ryan S. Haynie were sworn in by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell Tuesday at the Cabell County Courthouse. Zerkle said the new hires place the department at 44 officers, which is the most the department has seen in 10 years because of budget constraints.
“These young guys who are with us today have chosen a path in law enforcement,” he said. “Here of late, not many people want to do that. So we commend them on that.”
Haynie and Stratton are both Army veterans and Neil’s father, Todd, has worked a career in law enforcement and is currently a member of the Barboursville Police Department. Haynie graduated from Spring Valley High School, while the remaining three are Cabell Midland High School graduates.
Haynie is expected to go to the West Virginia State Police Academy in January, with the remaining three following in the spring. Until then, the new deputies will work within the courtrooms and help with inmate transportation on the courthouse grounds.
Zerkle said this will allow four deputies currently doing those duties to get on the road to help combat crime.
“It’s awesome. We have been struggling with budget cuts and things for several years and it’s hard to recruit,” he said.
“We finally pushed it to the final stage. We are at full capacity, but we have our work cut out for us.”
As an example of the decline in interest in law enforcement, Zerkle said when he tested to become a state police officer decades ago, 1,200 people tested for 40 positions. For the latest test for the sheriff’s department, 50 candidates showed up. Zerkle said the low turnout does help to weed out bad candidates, however.
“Nobody wants to do police work anymore, it seems like,” he said. “But the ones we are getting are quality individuals.”
The department has a majority of officers with military experience or a family history of law enforcement work, he said.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.