Huntington Council Reduces Top Police Ranks

Updated 1 year ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Huntington Council Reduces Top Police Ranks

The fight to re-take control of Huntington's streets from drug dealers, addicts and prostitutes has taken a surprise turn that Mayor Steve Williams and Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli did not expect.

During the  budget hearings in March, council vice chair Alex Vence seriously discussed a plan to reduce the number of higher paid overtime consuming Captains, Lieutenants , and Sergeants. The $178,000 saving will allow hiring four to five officers.

After the resolution passed unanimously, the Herald Dispatch quoted Mayor Williams that the change "causes some indigestion for me." He would have preferred a reduction to four captains. He added, since council has approved it, "we will see if it works."

Discussion of the well-documented proposal produced disagreements at the budget hearing. Vence's proposal came after a revelation that all five captains worked the 'day shift' and received OT (minimum of four hours) for a night call out.

The department's structure has a captain in charge of patrol, professional standards,  administration bureau, special investigations , and criminal investigations.

Ciccarelli  in March defended the current structure and warned of "unintended consequences" to a structure overhaul. For one, attrition would be the manner for reducing the number of captains, but two of those in the current positions become eligible for retirement.

The police chief added that "there's always extra duty officers" due to insufficient staffing. Calls subject to priority may back up for two hours.

Major incidents , such as murder, bring "all hands on deck" in call outs.

HPD had been heavily watched  for Captain OT payments for weekend , non reimbursed special community events, which will be watched closely.  

The body had raised concerns that the five captains all work the day shift then are called out for overtime which by contract must be a minimum of four hours payment. The four hour requirement was scrutinized  for call outs on other levels whether for court appearances or neighborhood discussions.

Tonia Paige, newly elected council member, insisted that the police, fire and city must learn to live within their budget, like ordinary households.

"We can't afford what it's costing us," Paige said. "We can't pay OT when we do not have it."

Councilman Charles McComas in March proposed that one captain be on duty each shift to reduce overtime. The chief deemed that not feasible.

At the Monday meeting, Vence stated, "it's clear that taxpayers want more officers on the street," adding we must be lean on top and mean at the bottom.

The resolution was not on the original agenda. It was added following council voting to waive the rules.

Currently, two captains are eligible for retirement, so Vence said the adjustment could be accomplished through attrition.



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