Detectives get a handSheriff will move deputy off road patrol to put more focus on unsolved crimes
By TOM GIAMBRONI Staff Writer
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LISBON - To address a growing backlog of unsolved crimes, Columbiana County Sheriff Ray Stone plans to reinstate a third detective position without adding another deputy to make up for the loss to the road patrol.
"It'll hurt the road division, but desperate times call for desperate measures," Stone said. "This was the only way to do it and not cost the county any more money."
Stone decided to make the move after county commissioners rejected his request for an additional money needed to add one-to-two more deputies, which would have enabled him to reinstate a third detective position that has been left vacant for the past several years due to the county's financial problems.
This was after he presented commissioners with figures showing the one detective, Lt. Andy Sweeney, has 10 active murder/suspicious death cases he is investigating, along with 114 other unsolved crimes dating back to 2006.
The other detective, Sgt. Steve Walker, investigates mostly sex crimes and has a backlog of 61 such unresolved cases dating back to 2007. Walker is also responsible for one homicide investigation and 17 other unsolved crimes.
Stone said this is simply unacceptable, and Sweeney and Walker need help to conduct investigations in a timely fashion. "It had to be done. There should be four detectives back there," he said.
To save money, the sheriff is taking applications only from any of the four other sergeants who might be interested in the position and not from non-supervisor deputies. A non-supervisor receiving the promotion to detective would have to be promoted to sergeant, resulting in an automatic pay raise.
Stone plans to work the third detective on the afternoon shift and weekends, providing not only a detective during those hours but someone who can also serve as shift supervisor. He expects having a detective scheduled during those hours and on weekends should also save on overtime that results from calling in an off-duty deputy when a crime needed investigated.
The only drawback to this arrangement is there will be one less deputy to work road patrol, but Stone said they will attempt to mitigate the effect by removing the deputy who worked the overlap 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift. This will reduce to two the number of deputies on the night shift.
"I think the people get the message we're understaffed and need help, but you play the cards you're dealt," he said.