Sheriff addresses CFBA

Members of the Chadds Ford Business Association got a peek into the workings of the Chester County Sheriff's Department yesterday. Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh and two of her lieutenants and a friendly four-legged deputy addressed the group during its Feb. 1 lunch meeting.

Welsh spoke first, offering a brief history of "sheriffing" going back to England when a royal official, called a reeve, enforced the law in the shire. The shire reeve became sheriff.

In the United States today, the county sheriff’s office and its charge differ from state to state. In some states, the sheriff serves the same function that a police force serves in municipalities. That's not the case in Pennsylvania.

Welsh said her deputies may issue traffic citations and perform other policing duties, but that's not the primary charge. Here, they serve warrants and provide security at courthouses. But her office also differs from police in another way.

Lt. Harry McKinney with Deputy Melody. McKinney said the K9 Unit is funded through private sponsorships and donations, not tax money.

"We don't have to follow the will of the governing body. We answer to the will of the people," Welsh said.

Following Welsh, Lt. Adam Sibley spoke briefly about workplace violence and active shooter situations. He began with basic facts, saying "You can't prevent everything, you can't come up with every hypothetical scenario and you also can't live in fear."

But he did say there are things businesses can do to prepare. When it comes to workplace violence, employees and management should always take threats seriously. The businesses should have a clear policy on how to handle threats and make sure employees know the policy so they can react accordingly to a given situation.

For active shooter situations, when a gunman comes on the premises and shoots indiscriminately, Sibley offered the basic rules that have been recommended before: run, hide, fight.

Get out of the area if at all possible. Get out quickly and safely. If safe escape is not possible, hide. Get into a secure place, an office or even closet with a door that can be locked from the inside. Find a solid barrier to hide behind, keeping yourself safely secluded from the shooter.

Lt. Adam Sibley says businesses should have policies in place on how to handle workplace violence and active shooter situations.

If neither option is available, Sibley said to fight back with everything and anything you can.

"Don't just wait for your turn to die," the lieutenant said. "If faced with a threat from somebody that wants to take our life, if you can't get away from that situation and are unable to hide, fight for your life. Grab whatever you can to use as a weapon."

The Chester County Sheriff’s office will perform an assessment of workplaces and evaluate what is needed to help set policies and actions in case of violent situations. Phone Sibley at the office at 610-344-6850 to schedule an appointment.

The third speaker was Lt. Harry McKinney from the sheriff's K9 Unit who brought Deputy Melody with him. Melody is used as a comfort dog to help calm victims — usually children — if needed, of traumatic events when they have to talk about those incidents at the courthouse.

McKinney said Melody used to work out on the street but had a habit of stealing food. That's why she wound up as a comfort dog.

McKinney explained that the dogs in the unit are trained to find people, drugs and explosives. He said in most cases, dogs in other jurisdictions are trained for all three uses, but it's best if the dogs specialize in just one type of search.

McKinney said the K9 Unit is not funded through tax dollars. Rather, the unit holds fund-raisers throughout the year and the individual handlers look for sponsors and donations.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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