June 5, 2019
W.Va. revamps key public safety agency
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Big changes have arrived for a state agency that serves an outsized role in keeping West Virginians safe.
Legislation that became law Wednesday reorganizes the Division of Justice and Community Services. Still part of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the agency is now a section within DMAPS's recently created Division of Administrative Services.
This restructuring furthers the consolidation reflected in last year’s formation of Administrative Services and the unified Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Under Secretary Jeff Sandy, with the support of Gov. Jim Justice, DMAPS has so far merged four agencies to improve efficiencies and effectiveness.
“The strength of this reorganization will promote cross-training and the more efficient handling of grants and procurement,” Sandy said. “But, the most important aspect of the merger will be enhancing Administrative Service’s main goal of conducting every action with the highest degree of ethical behavior.”
With little fanfare, what is now the Justice and Community Services section performs an array of critical public safety duties, including:
• Funding and training Prevention Resource Officers, whose specialized approach helps keep students and staff safe at 100 schools in 39 counties.
• Securing, distributing and managing millions in federal grants to support domestic violence shelters, crime victim support programs, Child Advocacy Network facilities and similar endeavors statewide.
• Overseeing the certification and training of law enforcement officers.
• Funding community corrections programs such as Day Report Centers, as a less costly but effective rehabilitative alternative to incarceration.
• Successfully implementing the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) alongside the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory.
• Conducting award-winning, nationally recognized research that informs and assists law enforcement and policymakers.
All told, Justice and Community Services administers and manages $44 million annually in funding for statewide programs that assist in all areas of criminal justice and public safety.
“I just want to express my appreciation to all for staying focused on the mission and job at hand,” Joe Thornton, who has overseen this transition as agency director, told staff recently. “I realize change can be tough, but change is a key component of development and growth and can also bring about a stronger and more viable operation if properly embraced.”
Many of the agency’s duties had been handled on behalf of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Correction, similarly a little-known but vital government entity. To facilitate this merger, Administrative Services is now designated as the committee’s staffing agency and the state administrative agency for federal grants and programs.
Thornton will continue as deputy director of Administrative Services, with day-to-day oversight of JCS and additional responsibilities specific to DAS operations. Jeff Estep, who had been the division’s deputy director, will assist in overseeing the restructured program section’s day-to-day operations. With no layoffs involved in this reorganization, employees will officially join Administrative Services for payroll purposes on July 1, the start of the next state budget year. The section will also keep its Smith Street offices at this time.
“I believe we have had a very smooth transition process,” said Administrative Services Director Denny Rhodes. “We look forward to getting to know our new co-workers in furtherance of our mission of becoming a more efficient organization for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.”
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