PRINCETON — Mercer County Sheriff T.A. “Tommy” Bailey announced on Tuesday morning that his department and the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police have coordinated a staffing plan to keep the county covered with a mutual law enforcement presence.
He said at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Mercer County Commission that last week’s plan to pull the sheriff’s department from responding to vehicle crashes “was all my idea. The State Police wasn’t involved, the city police wasn’t involved, the commission wasn’t involved.”
“The reason I did this was in hopes that, if the troopers would work the accidents, we could free up (officers) to handle other calls.”
Bailey said that with the new staffing plan, “They’re going to schedule their men around ours, so we’re going to get essentially double coverage. So basically it’s a dead issue. We’re back to working wrecks. Everybody’s going to get the protection they need.”
First Sgt. R.A. Maddy of the West Virginia State Police, who worked out the plan on Monday with the sheriff, said, “… we just filled the holes (in the schedules) where we saw there was a shortage.”
County commissioner Greg Puckett said, “I would personally like to commend the sheriff for reaching out to the State Police and working to resolve the situation that came up this past weekend. The sheriff and I have had good discussions, and I think it’s been very productive.”
The sheriff said that he has 18 “road deputies,” but one is on long-term medical leave and another is participating in canine training with a drug-and-tracking dog.
He said he is working on acquiring an additional “bomb dog” that can also detect gunpowder from ammunition.
He added, “With recent things happening in Las Vegas … I’m trying to get the Special Response Team back.” This unit, to be comprised of six deputies, would be similar to the SWAT team of the State Police, he said. But that unit is “spread all over the state,” he said, and usually can’t arrive on scene quickly.
“My biggest fear is something happening in our schools and we’re not prepared for it,” he said. “I want to be prepared for it.”
“We’ve got more deputies than we’ve ever had, thanks to the county commission,” Bailey said. Still, he said, “We’re loaded down with a lot of stuff.”
He listed a number of legally mandated duties of his officers, including providing court bailiffs, serving domestic violence protective orders and eviction orders, and responding to mental hygiene issues.
Maddy said, “Double coverage may be strong. Still, both of our organizations are dealing with severe issues with manpower shortages.”
During the commission meeting, Mercer County magistrate Sandra J. Dorsey thanked law enforcement officers for their work in often dangerous situations, and asked attendees to “realize we’ve got a darn big county here.”
— Contact Tom Bone at