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HUNTINGTON — Nine new probationary officers have officially joined the Huntington Police Department.

A swearing-in ceremony was held for the new officers on Monday. They will start their training on May 17, which will include 10 weeks of in-house training and 10 weeks at the West Virginia State Police Academy. Each officer will also complete 12 weeks of supervised field training with a training officer.

HPD Chief Ray Cornwell said Monday was a big day for the department, for which the addition of nine new officers was a record. The previous largest hiring group was eight officers last year, and that was the largest in 24 years, Cornwell said.

“It’s a hard time to be a police officer, and we’re really happy that there’s still good folks out there who want to do this job and work with us and keep this community safe,” Cornwell said.

Mayor Steve Williams addressed the officers and the crowd at the ceremony. In his remarks, he said that defunding the police will not happen in Huntington, referring to a nationwide movement that supports diverting police funds to non-policing forms of public safety and community resources.

“The fact of the matter is that any conversation about defunding the police is not going to happen in this city,” Williams said.

Williams said a fully funded police department leads to a safe community, adding that the city’s police budget is the largest it has ever been, but “they are not nearly high enough.”

“It doesn’t mean that we don’t have to adjust and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do other things within the community, which we already have started. We’re setting standards that the rest of the nation is seeking to follow,” Williams said.

The newest class of officers is a mix of veteran and first-time officers. Among them was Aspen Matlock, who was previously a police officer in Wheeling, West Virginia. She said she always wanted to become a police officer after having a father figure in her life who was a West Virginia State Police trooper.

Matlock was the only woman among Monday’s group of officers. For young girls who may want to become police officers in the future, she said to “go for it.”

“This is the best career that I’ve ever been in,” Matlock said.

Jacob Fitzwater was another officer who took an oath on Monday. He said he became interested in becoming a police officer three years ago after studying criminal justice and law enforcement in college. He previously interned with a local sheriff’s department.

“Make sure it’s definitely what you want to do,” Fitzwater said for those considering becoming an officer.

Justin Maynard said he always wanted to become a police officer as long as he can remember. He said a few of his family members have military backgrounds, but he decided to pursue a law enforcement career instead.

“In the end, I wanted a job that they could be proud of,” Maynard said.

HPD is currently accepting applications for the next testing period, which begins on Aug. 28. Cornwell said for those who are considering applying, the police department’s website has recruiting information about the test and requirements.

The new officers were:

  • Jeremy Lowrance, 31, of Ogden, Utah
  • Aspen Matlock, 27, of Wheeling
  • Jacob Fitzwater, 21, of Charleston
  • Isaac Anderson, 25, of Huntington
  • Joshua McCoy, 22, of Huntington
  • Daniel Hudson, 33, of Ashland
  • Justin Maynard, 32, of Huntington
  • Devon Butler, 26, of Morehead, Kentucky
  • Jonah Mathis, 22, of Huntington

HPD’s total staffing level is now 98 officers. The department’s budget has room for 108 sworn officers.

McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @mckennahorsley.

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