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County deputies take over in Cornelius

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) will take over law enforcement services from the Cornelius Police Department effective Tuesday, July 1.

Lt. Gene Moss of WCSO will replace Cornelius Police Chief Ken Summers at that date. Moss will remain part of the WCSO, but will still report to Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake, just as Summers did.

Officers serving in Cornelius will continue to wear Cornelius Police Department (CPD) uniforms and use police cars with the CPD logo, but they will officially be WCSO deputies. Their paychecks will come from the county, and they will use WCSO firearms.

The Cornelius Police Department’s firearms and tasers were auctioned off last week (officers will keep their weapons until July 1, and then the buyers will claim them), with the few thousand dollars raised in the sale going to the city’s general fund.

The 13 current CPD officers will receive two months of county training. On Sept. 1, about half the officers will stay in Cornelius, and the rest will be spread throughout the county as deputies.

“I want the citizens to know that virtually every officer working in Cornelius after the merger is there because they asked to be there,” Summers said. “They aren’t looking toward greener pastures. They competed to be here.”

The city’s contract with WCSO will cost the city roughly $2.4 million a year, with slight annual increases anticipated. The department’s management structure has been stripped down from five positions to three — a chief, a sergeant and a corporal — in order to get more patrol officers on the street.

In addition, the WCSO will use the Cornelius station as a “west precinct,” which will afford the city extra coverage as WCSO patrol deputies move in and out of the office.