MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — The city of McMechen no longer is under the watchful eye of the sheriff.

A letter has sparked discrepancies between McMechen’s Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office. 

The letter from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office says if a 911 call is not serious or violent, they are asking the operator to forward the call to Chief of Police Don DeWitt.

And if he does not answer, they advise calling the mayor. 

“All residents and passers through the county are entitled to a response. And see, we do that. That’s why we have to prioritize. I’ve only got so many people in that area to cover. So, I would love to respond to every barking dog or firework call. We just simply don’t have the manpower.” 

Sheriff Bill Helms, Marshall County

“It is a concern because even the most mundane calls can turn into a ‘violent or serious nature’ in the blink of an eye.” 

Chief Don DeWitt, McMechen Police

In the letter written to the county’s 911 Director, Chief Deputy Ralph Taylor says due to the overwhelming amount of calls the center received over the Fourth of July weekend, the lack of McMechen police officers scheduled, and the amount the deputies responded to calls that weekend, they are now changing criteria. 

Marshall County Sheriff’s Office full letter written to the Marshall County 911 Director

Chief DeWitt pulled up the call record for that day and showed the camera only three placed calls.

He says the Sheriff of Marshall County does not get to pick and choose where in the county the sheriff deputies patrol. 

The Sheriff says, however, that their office has no power to enforce city ordinances, like a fireworks complaint; they will only enforce state law. 

Sheriff Helms says McMechen is not alone. This letter now extends to the City of Cameron as well. 

“We are budgeted 33 deputies and myself. But, we are down significantly from that. Law enforcement is in, I hate to use the term, crisis mode because we are that shorthanded.” 

Sheriff Bill Helms, Marshall County

But Chief DeWitt says they are more understaffed. The Chief says his department should have five officers. They currently have two, including himself. His lieutenant and him work 12-hour days, every day, with a mandatory 8-hour break between shifts. And because of the cap in overtime, he is not allowed to respond when he is off duty. It has been like this for months, with no end in sight.

Chief DeWitt says his lieutenant could be leaving soon, reducing the department down to just himself.