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At the June 8 City Council meeting, Mayor Steve Williams stated his opposition to defunding or restructuring the Huntington Police Department. The mayor’s reasoning stems from his belief that the department is already understaffed and underfunded. His words at the meeting seemingly left zero room for debate and appeared to demonstrate that he thinks the entirety of the Huntington community agrees with this decision.

However, Huntington is a changing city with a new generation hoping and working for change. This is exactly why we should at least discuss the idea of “defunding” HPD and restructuring resources to a number of underfunded programs and departments that more directly impact public safety.

There is no question Huntington struggles with unique social issues. Nevertheless, why in a time when cities across the country are considering a fundamental shift in the role of police should Huntington refuse to engage in the conversation? Reprioritizing HPD’s budget is worthy of debate in an area that is in need of greater funding for social services. In fact, defunding or reprioritizing police department budgets to address other needs is only the first step in realistic change that all mayors should be considering. It is important to know why the Mayor and City Council have completely closed off community supporters of this conversation.

Huntington cannot truly be a city of progress when conversations on important changes do not take place in an open public debate. The mayor, as he has in the past, should provide the space and consideration for a discussion to take place. All members of the community should be heard on this matter, especially the voices of those who are most likely affected by these unilateral decisions.

Stephen Young


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