Law enforcement community recognized in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The public and members of the law enforcement community gathered Thursday to lay a wreathe at the Public Safety Building to commemorate National Police Week from May 11 through May 17 and National Peace Officers Memorial Day May 15.

The ceremony included a special mention of Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Todd May who was killed in action February 18, 2012. May was providing mutual aid to the Granville Police Department with a hit-and-run pursuit that crossed into West Virignia from Pennsylvania shortly before 1 a.m. Minutes later May was killed when the car slammed into May’s cruiser as he waited in the median of I-79.

“It does hit close to home for us, losing one of our own Sgt. Todd May,” Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said. “It’s a stark reminder that our guyrs or any law enforcement officer may not come home.”

Morgantown Chief of Police, Eric Powell said officers have a high-risk occupation that is under fire in many ways from different groups. Officers are forced to balance a work flow that could go from a motorist assist to a murder investigation in minutes.

“It’s calling more than a profession and it requires an incredible amount of training,” Powell said. “It takes a special kind of person to do the job.”

Monongalia County commissioner Sean Sikora explained his father severed on the Weirton Police Department for 28 years. His father made the decision to leave the department as their family grew and compensation became an issue.

“He couldn’t keep up with the benefits that the steel mill offered, so he retired and went into the mill after 28 years,” Sikora said. “It was the worst decision he ever made in his life, and he regretted it the rest of his life.”

This special recognition is also a way to spotlight law enforcement. Many departments face record retirements and are struggling to fill the ranks. Nationwide trends show a decrease in the number of people that decide to pursue a career in public safety.

In the most recent Monongalia County budget commissioners approved a 7% increase in public safety spending and developed a new pay structure for the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office. Commissioners established the pay scale to help retention after state lawmakers approved raises for troopers.

“That’s why it’s really important for me to make sure we take care of the people who protect us, so we can retain them,” Sikora said.