Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Call-ups take toll at home

Kenton Co. will lose nearly 1/4 of its staff

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney's office will lose nearly a quarter of its staff when an assistant prosecutor leaves for active duty next week.

        Ruey Newsom, a captain in the Army Reserve, has been ordered to report to Columbus on Monday.

        That leaves his boss, Commonwealth Attorney Bill Crockett, working to reassign 150-200 cases. Mr. Newsom was one of four full-time and three part-time prosecutors working for Mr. Crockett.

        “This has caused a real domino effect in our office,” Mr. Crockett said. “Not only am I losing a prosecutor, I have to worry about officers needing to testify in cases being called for active duty.”

        Mr. Newsom said his pending departure would probably cause his office to file for continuances in some cases. So far, Mr. Crockett said, no case has been delayed because an officer has not been available to testify.

        But that could change as officers from around the Tristate get called for active duty.

        Campbell County Police Chief David Sandfoss said his department's staffing problems have been exacerbated by the departure of Deputy Greg Steeken. Mr. Steeken has been ordered to report to active duty Thursday at Quantico, Va. The 25-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reservist has been with the department just over a year.

        A second officer is out on military medical leave because of an injury received during military duty, said Chief Sandfoss, and a third officer is looking at having to participate in extended training exercises as a National Guard Reservist.

        The department has 28 sworn officers.

        “We are running on low,” Chief Sandfoss said. “This just makes everyone work a little bit harder.”

        The 22-officer Fort Thomas Police Department lost a member of its command staff when Lt. Wayne Turner, a 17-year veteran on the force, was activated. The major in the National Guard reported to Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 5.

        “When you take away one of the command staff, it left an entire shift without a commander,” said department spokesman Lt. Mark Dill. “It is not just that we are down another person, but we have lost a leader in the department.”

        In Kentucky, Mr. Crockett said he has been authorized to fill the position left open by Mr. Newsom's departure. But he said it is hard to find someone to fill a temporary position. He said he doesn't even know how long he will need that person. Under most circumstances, federal law requires employers to reinstate any reservists after they complete their tour of duty.

        Mr. Newsom said his orders are for one year, but he said that could change. He declined to say what his mission will be.

        “We have been given a gag order,” he said. “I'm not allowed to talk about the mission.”

        Mr. Newsom said he is lucky. The 34-year-old Erlanger resident is single and has no children. He has found someone to dog-sit his two chocolate Laborador retrievers, and his parents have agreed to take care of insurance and home-ownership paperwork.

        This is not Mr. Newsom's first deployment. Starting in late 1994, he spent 18 months in Yugoslavia, part of that time with a U.N. peacekeeping force.

        “No one is upset that we have to go,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do. This is what we signed up for, what we are trained to do.”

       Enquirer reporter Howard Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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