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The story behind the story: Can sheriff deputize a special officer?

Managing editor

There is a Letter to the Editor in today’s newspaper from Hank Shockley of Marion.

He asks questions pertaining to a recent article in an area newspaper regarding Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker appointing an out-of-county deputy.

In the article, Ross Mayfield of California was appointed as a deputy by Becker because Mayfield is recognized as one of the leading “cyber sleuths in the nation and a top instructor” of ethical hacking.

The article further stated that Mayfield’s connection with Marion County has been helpful on numerous occasions. “Being deputized has given Mayfield sufficient credentials to do work for other clients, particularly to be authorized to search for evidence under a judge’s warrant,” the article stated.

Becker said, in the article, that “if Mayfield is in L.A. and needs to work under our colors, he can get that relationship going. There are certain things that law enforcement can do that the ordinary person can’t, and there are certain doors he can open that the ordinary person can’t.”

On one occasion, the article stated that the Secret Service of Philadelphia needed Mayfield’s help involving sensitive materials in Internet chat rooms that originated in another country.

“I had the expertise they needed,” Mayfield said in the article, “so I called the dispatcher here (in Marion) and said, ‘Look, this is 1125. I’m going on duty with the Secret Service in Philadelphia as a such-and-such’. They recorded it in the log, and when I helped the Secret Service solve the matter in a couple of hours, I called the dispatcher back and I said, ‘This is 1125. I’m off-duty with the Secret Service’.”

Mayfield, a Kansas native and former Inman resident, comes with impressive credentials — a computer forensic investigator at Torrance, Calif., a certified computer crime investigator, a reserve police officer, and has assisted the U.S. Department of Defense.

Currently Mayfield is an adjunct professor of management information systems at Pepperdine University.

So, what is the story behind the story?

According to Steven Culp, director of Kansas Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, the sheriff has authority to appoint special deputies.

“Their law enforcement authority is limited,” Culp said. “It’s not as broad as a certified law enforcement officer.”

Culp said that typically, “special” deputies would have a specific assignment or duty given to him or her by a sheriff and he/she would have to stay within that scope.

The office of sheriff is a constitutional office that goes back to the time when a sheriff would ask individuals to serve in times of need like to form a posse.

In Kansas, law enforcement officers are required to become certified, through rigorous training, within a year of being hired. However, there is a state statute that allows sheriffs to appoint special deputies who do not require the traditional training.

Since the article was printed and the Letter to the Editor received, Becker was contacted Tuesday morning, regarding concerns as a result of the article.

Becker clarified that Mayfield was asked by Marion County to assist in one case. Otherwise, when Mayfield is contacted, it is a telephone call every few months for basic information.

“He doesn’t get paid,” Becker said. “I wrote him one check for $1 that he hasn’t cashed.”

In return, Becker said Mayfield has contributed some of his own money to the county’s drug fund.

There are no clandestine meetings in California. Becker said Mayfield returns to Kansas once a year and they typically meet at that time.

Becker said Mayfield only works under his direction.

The case to which Becker referred was solved with the help of Mayfield.

“It helps to have a third, disinterested party to consult with,” Becker said.

Becker compared Mayfield’s consultations with going to a mechanic for advice on a car motor or a rancher for information about cattle.

“I have to look to different people for expertise,” Becker said.

Are there are other “special” deputies? Becker said he has several part-time deputies but considers Mayfield more of a consultant.

Annual background checks are performed on all of Becker’s employees, including Mayfield.

And that case that Mayfield helped with? It was an identity theft case that probably would not have been solved without Mayfield’s assistance, Becker said.

Last modified Oct. 8, 2008

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