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Officer's retirement brings promotions

Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The retirement of a longtime police officer opened the door for three promotions Friday at the Huntington Police Department.

Brenda Wamsley stepped aside with 28 years of service and the rank of lieutenant.

Her departure resulted in promotions for Daren McNeil, now lieutenant, and Christopher Merritt to sergeant.

Police Chief Skip Holbrook approached the day with mixed emotions, congratulating those promoted and getting choked up in speaking about Wamsley.

"She bleeds blue," he said. "She just stands to me for everything this job is all about. She is a tremendous police officer."

McNeil and Merritt will take their new ranks to the road, specifically evening shift. It marks McNeil's first return to road patrol in a decade.

The new lieutenant voiced excitement with his new assignment. He said he hopes to influence the shift's younger officers, who come to the force with a fresh, optimistic attitude and a "glow in their eyes."

"I look forward to helping them, and trying to motivate them in doing a good job," he said.

Merritt's new rank comes with a move from midnight shift. That brings a new sleep pattern and a chance to groom younger officers.

"I'm honored," he said. "It's just being able to help the younger guys a little bit. Not that they can learn everything from me, but just to help them along."

McNeil and Merritt are joined by a third, unnamed officer in Friday's promotions. Holbrook did not publicly identify that officer, citing his involvement in a sensitive investigation.

Wamsley's retirement brought many accolades. Holbrook honored her with the Department's Distinguished Service Award and a plaque, along with traditional presentments of her service weapon and retired identification card. Members of her traffic unit presented other items.

Just moments before Friday's service, Wamsley called the traffic unit a police officer's best assignment. She called it her passion, a job sweetened by the opportunity to ride a Harley-Davidson on motorcycle patrols.

"It's the backbone of the police department," she said of uniform patrol. "It's just my niche."

Mayor Steve Williams marked Wamsley's retirement by declaring Friday to be "Lt. B.J. Wamsley Appreciation Day" in Huntington. A city representative read the proclamation due to an engagement in Charleston that required Williams' attention.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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