Grant boosts HPD staffing to 30-year high
HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Police Department’s roster will soon stand at 111 sworn officers in addition to its chief, a threshold not witnessed since the early 1980s.
A federal grant, announced last week, will provide Huntington with $625,000 over three years. Coupled with matching funds from the city, that amount will be enough to hire five additional officers.
Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook said Wednesday the funding will boost the city’s patrol bureau, which includes its Special Emphasis Unit. His administration is reviewing its hiring list and will be prepared to have new recruits signed on in time for state-mandated training in January.
“We’re obviously thrilled,” he said. “This is a shot in the arm for us without question.”
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Mayor Steve Williams joined Holbrook at Wednesday’s press conference.
The grant represents continued funding from a U.S. Department of Justice program, which provided Huntington money to hire four additional officers in 2009.
Those positions have since been absorbed into the city’s general budget, meaning new funds from the grant allow the city to increase its police roster.
Williams vowed the same will hold true three years from now, and Goodwin said such progress when coupled with Huntington’s declining crime make the city a worthy recipient.
“People like to invest in success,” Goodwin said. “That’s what the Department of Justice has done here, is invest in the success of the Huntington Police Department. It’s a great testament as to what can happen if people come together and work together.”
Williams told reporters an 111-officer roster will place Huntington on par with police departments many times its size, such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and other million-plus cities.
FBI statistics released last month seem to confirm the mayor’s claim. The data lists Huntington with 102 officers in 2012, a rate of 2.1 officers for every 1,000 inhabitants. The ability to increase the roster to 111 would boost the city’s rate to 2.3 officers.
Both rates fall in line with just 14.7 percent of cities similar to Huntington’s population, according to the FBI report. It further indicates cities with populations that eclipsed 250,000 in population in 2012 averaged 2.7 officers per 1,000 inhabitants.
Williams attributed Huntington’s lingering crime problem, down drastically since the mid 2000s, to policies of past mayoral administrations which allowed the police department to be depleted.
“That can never happen again; 111 has to be a minimum threshold,” he said. “Certainly, my expectation is that we need to have more.”
Holbrook, who initially hoped for a 100-officer force, now has the goal set at securing 115 sworn officers. He said the department remains competitive for such grants due to its partnerships with various neighborhood organizations, law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and city officials, including the mayor and council.
Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial said the grant will provide $625,000 over three years, which equates to approximately $208,000 annually. It additionally requires an estimated $259,000 three-year match from the city, which equals approximately $86,000 in city funds annually.
The Justice Department provides the funding through its Community Oriented Policing Services office, commonly known by the acronym COPS.
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