Sheriff Candidates Respond to Tyler Star News Questions
1. Why do you want to be Sheriff?
Brian Weigle: I have a great love for my community and the citizens of Tyler County.
Ben Placer: I was born and raised in Sistersville and ever since I was a young child I had an interest in law enforcement. I want to do everything I can to make Tyler County a better place to live and raise a family. I believe with my training, experience, and leadership I can accomplish this goal if I am elected Sheriff of Tyler County.
2. What experience do you have that qualifies you to be Sheriff?
Brian Weigle: I have been the Sheriff for almost four years. I have attended numerous trainings to further my knowledge in law enforcement during my time as Sheriff. I have also been actively involved with the deputies of the department in learning the roles of a law enforcement officer.
Ben Placer: As a junior in High School I enlisted in the US Navy. Upon receiving an honorable discharge I returned back to West Virginia and enrolled in the criminal justice program at WVU Parkersburg where I earned an Associates Degree. In 1998 I began my career in law enforcement as a Patrolman with the Amherst Police Department in Amherst Virginia. I worked my way up to Investigator with the Amherst Police Department. I was offered a position with the Nelson County Virginia Sheriff’s Office as an investigator until I returned back home to Sistersville in 2011 to serve as the Chief of Police. Since I began my career in law enforcement I have completed over ninety courses. I also have a combined ten years of supervisory experience between law enforcement and the private sector.
3. What changes if any do you want to see in the Sheriff’s Department?
Brian Weigle: Establishment of a Special Response Team in the department. Continuation on updating equipment within the department. I would also like to see the department continue to increase man power to help with the county’s growing call volume for law enforcement.
Ben Placer: If elected Sheriff I would like to update policies and procedures. As part of this update I would like to limit the amount of personal use of emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles should not be taken out of the county except for legitimate law enforcement purposes. Also, emergency vehicles should not be used to transport family members except under certain circumstances. When a citizen sees a Sheriff’s vehicle, they expect the person driving that vehicle to be able to provide aid to them in an emergency situation. If a deputy has a family member in his vehicle he or she has to make a decision whether to help the citizen and possibly put his family member in danger or to keep going and not help the citizen.
4. What have you accomplished or hope to accomplish as Tyler County Sheriff?
Brian Weigle: In my first term as Sheriff I was able to meet the man power needs to establish 24/7 coverage in the county. I have also placed an officer in every school in the county to help protect our county’s youth and make our schools a safer place to learn. I have helped in establishing a community training program.
Ben Placer: If elected Sheriff I hope to install GPS units in patrol vehicles. GPS units serve several purposes. First and foremost is officer safety. If an officer is unable to be reached by radio or phone for whatever reason, his or her location can be found using the GPS system and other deputies can be dispatched to check on the missing officer. The GPS can also help better target patrols.
The GPS will show patrol routes and can help ensure that all areas of the county are being patrolled. Information obtained from GPS units may also be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution. If an officer becomes involved in a pursuit the GPS will show maximum speed, minimum speed and average speed along with the pursuit route and distance travelled. GPS units can be a valuable tool when used properly. I would also like to look into the possibility of equipping officers with body cameras. The body cameras themselves are relatively inexpensive. The common problem with body cameras is the storage of video footage for evidentiary purposes.
5. What do you see as the biggest challenge for the Sheriff’s Department?
Brian Weigle: The county’s drug problem is one of our biggest challenges. The department will continue a proactive stance towards drug dealers and will continue to cooperate with support agencies for treatment programs in our county.
Ben Placer: The biggest challenge the Sheriff’s Office faces is the fight against drugs. Drug work requires a substantial amount of time and manpower. As a small department the Sheriff must find creative ways to get drugs off of the street while minimizing overtime in order to stay within the department’s budget.
6. How crucial is it to work well with other County law enforcement, including the Prosecutors office?
Brian Weigle: Our agency must be able to work with outside agencies to be affective in solving crime and affective in combating the area drug problem. We must also work with our county prosecutor in a productive manner to insure we continue a mutual goal of reducing crime in the county.
Ben Placer: Open communications between other agencies is vital to the success of all agencies not only in Tyler County but in surrounding counties and states also.
A close working relationship with the prosecutor is also extremely important. Many hours are spent on developing criminal cases. Without communications with the prosecutor small details can be missed that could cause the case to be dismissed. The victims of crimes deserve to have their cases prosecuted and an open line of communication with the prosecutor is the best way to accomplish that. Many times deputies have to make a decisions without being able to speak with the prosecutor. In these situations detailed reports and an open line of communication with the prosecutor after the fact is extremely important.
7. Will you as Sheriff take every case serious and treat each party fairly?
Brian Weigle: Since I have been Sheriff, I have made it a priority that every case is given the attention that is needed within the limits of the law and that every victim is made a priority. Cases are fully investigated, and options are given to the victims on how they wish to proceed within the limits of the WV Code.
Ben Placer: Every case the Sheriff’s Office receives is serious. When people call the Sheriff’s Office they call expecting answers or results. Not every case gets solved but I would expect every officer to follow through with each complaint until they have exhausted all means. I have always prided myself on treating people right. I treat people the same way I would want my wife or kids treated. I treat everyone with respect and dignity. I would also expect those serving under me to treat every individual the same way.
8. As Sheriff will you work to stay within your budget and try to eliminate overtime as much as possible?
Brian Weigle: Overtime is inevitable in a law enforcement profession. In my four years as Sheriff, I have reduced overtime by increasing staffing and establishing 24/7 coverage. This has eliminated call outs and reduced the need for coverage when we previously had no coverage. Deputies are no longer on call through the night, eliminating the amount of on call pay This has reduced my budget needs in these areas.
Ben Placer: One of the biggest expenses to the Sheriff’s Office is payroll. As Sheriff I would expect twelve hours of work for twelve hours of pay. Sometimes deputies get held over because of a call or an investigation. This type of situation is often unavoidable. As Sheriff it is important to closely monitor the budget and ensure that the department stays within that budget.
9. Will you continue to pursue training for each of your Deputies? And ensure that they have up to date equipment for their protection?
Brian Weigle: Training is a high priority in a law enforcement profession and a priority in my department. Each officer has a required amount of training each year and I have established a department training program within the department to enhance officers skills. We continually strive to update equipment and keep officers safe with modern equipment.
Ben Placer: Training is not only a requirement of the state but also extremely important to the effectiveness of the Sheriff’s Department. There is a wide variety of training available to law enforcement.
Each deputy has their own interests and I believe that he or she should attend courses that they are interested in. When deputies attend training that interests them they will get more out of the class and bring back a bigger benefit to the department. Criminals are always looking for new ways to avoid being caught by law enforcement. Up to date equipment and training will help ensure that the Sheriff’s Department is ahead of the curve and ready to serve the citizens of Tyler County and combat crime. Some equipment such as bullet proof vests are required under state law to be issued to deputies. Bullet proof vests are usually guaranteed anywhere from four to six years depending on the manufacturer then need to be replaced. State and Federal grants are excellent ways to supplement the Sheriff’s Department budget. I have personally applied for and received many grants that allowed my previous departments to get equipment for little or no cost. Some of the equipment I have gotten under grants include: Bullet proof vests, night vision equipment, audio and video recording devices, in car camera systems, laptop computers, and radars. If elected Sheriff I would continue to seek out these type of grants for the Tyler County Sheriff’s Department.
10. Last will you strive to be an effective Sheriff for all of Tyler County?
Brian Weigle: There have been great strides in the Sheriff’s Office since I was elected. I have moved the office to a more accessible building for the public to access our deputies. I have enhanced patrols with a 24/7 shift coverage that puts officers on the road through the night. It is my objective as Sheriff to provide every citizen of Tyler County with a proactive Sheriff’s Office geared at serving the citizens with compassion and respect. I strive to be available to the citizens to hear their concerns and issues and utilize my department in finding solutions to make our community a safe place to live.
Ben Placer: I believe that in order to be a good Sheriff you have to be an effective leader and be available to all citizens of Tyler County. A sheriff should be a good communicator, listener, and problem solver. I want every citizen of Tyler County to feel confident in the ability of the Tyler County Sheriff’s office to handle their needs.