City Council questions Huntington police on recent violence spike

Captain Hank Dial reports to the Huntington City Council Public Safety Committee Wednesday. (WCHS/WVAH)

A record 16 homicides this year, nearly half since October 1st, and 14 businesses robbed in two months in Huntington has spurred city council members to call in Police Captain Hank Dial to find out what's going on.

"I wanted to hear it directly from the police department,” said Alex Vence, Public Safety Committee Chairman, “where they are, what's being done, and what we need to do in the future."

Several people crowded in to hear the solutions like Donna Rumbaugh.

Dial told council the violence is not a turf war between gangs, as some had speculated, but most was related to the drug trade.

That’s a distinction that didn't make Rumbaugh feel better.

“It was criminal on criminal crime,” Rumbaugh said, “but that's still very problematic and scary because eventually a non-criminal is going to get caught in the crossfire."

Dial said step one in finding a solution would be hiring more officers.

As of December 1st, the Huntington Police Department has 89 officers working forcing them to pull from the detective and drug units to fill patrol.

"It does stress the staff,” Dial said, “they're exhausted, and they're not going to work any less. They're going to keep working hard."

Dial wants council to budget for 111, but some said budget restrictions will make that impossible.

Vence said to protect the city council will have to find a way.

"Money is always an issue,” he said, “it's really easy to say we can't do it. My position is we need to find a way to do it, and I think that we can and we will."

City council has the department budgeted for 103 officers, and the F.O.P. contract will guarantee they have at least 98 police officers on staff and several other police benefits.

City Council will consider budget changes in committee in December.

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