CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Starting Friday, almost all employees of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department will be required to wear body armor while on duty.
"Anyone who carries a firearm for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department is going to be required immediately to start wearing body armor," Sheriff Johnny Rutherford said.
Department personnel were expected to get a memo Friday informing them of the new policy, which requires all armed employees to wear a ballistic vest while working.
Rutherford said 80 percent or 85 percent of the department's road deputies already regularly wear their body armor. The new policy applies to deputies and personnel who have not traditionally been accustomed to wearing a vest. The list includes legal process servers, day report officers, home confinement officers and the county's three mental hygiene officers.
The policy also will apply to deputies providing security at the courthouse annex on Virginia Street. "The courthouse can be just as dangerous as anywhere else," Rutherford said.
The department already has enough vests to supply the county's 99 deputies, the sheriff and Chief Deputy Mike Rutherford. But the sheriff said he will need to buy new vests to replace some of the older vests, which must be replaced every five years.
Johnny Rutherford also said he will need to buy some vests for process servers and other personnel who have not traditionally worn body armor.
Rutherford said the vests cost about $500 each. He estimates it will cost about $16,000 to supply all the new vests the department needs.
But Rutherford said he will not ask the Kanawha County Commission for money to buy the new vests. "We'll find it in the existing budget," he said. "We have the money, it's just about putting it in the right place."