HUNTINGTON — Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial is asking City Council to approve a memorandum of understanding allowing officers to be reimbursed for drug trafficking investigations with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
If approved, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will reimburse each officer no more than $15,000 per year to conduct investigations into cross-border drug smuggling operations.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit falls under the Department of Homeland Security and investigates matters of human trafficking, illegal immigration, antiquity theft and gang activity, among other transnational criminal activities.
Dial said the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to expand its offices in Huntington and Charleston and reached out to the Huntington Police Department for assistance.
“They have needs and we have assets that match,” Dial said.
A large amount of opioid drugs sold in Huntington are trafficked from across the border, he said. The goal will be to identify who is bringing them into the city and then hamper or eliminate any trafficking operations.
Dial went before members of the city’s Public Safety Committee on Monday. The committee agreed to forward an ordinance creating the agreement between ICE and the Huntington Police Department to city council with a favorable recommendation. The agreement will require two readings before it may be adopted.
If approved, Huntington police officers will be reimbursed for leading or assisting in investigations of drug smuggling from ICE’s Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
“When we work with them sometimes the city incurs costs when we are assist them with their investigations,” Dial said. “This will allow us to recoup the cost spent working on Homeland Security Investigations in the department.”
Huntington police will be required to file an invoice for overtime salary reimbursement and reimbursement for travel, fuel, training and equipment.
The city is still required to make tax withholdings and provide health insurance coverage. Benefits are not reimbursable, according to the agreement.
Dial said a $15,000 reimbursement limit for each officer per year is standard and is in place for the city’s other federal task force partnerships.
Also during Monday’s meeting, committee members agreed to update the city’s ordinance involving school bus stops to mirror existing state law. The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles may suspend someone’s license for illegally passing a stopped school bus on a second offense. City Council will need to approve the updated ordinance.
Dial also introduced a resolution that would make modifications to the city’s Policemen’s Civil Service Commission rules and regulations. Among the changes are an increase to the age limit of new hires to 41, changes to mental and physical testing based on updated state law and adding language to seniority for consideration in promotions. New computer programs allow departments to determine an officer’s seniority down to the date they started as opposed to just going by the officer’s start month and year, he said.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.