KINGWOOD, W.Va. – The Kingwood Police Department is looking to at least double its current police force from two to five and a half officers over the course of the next year and a half in order to better meet the needs of their community.
In order to meet this goal, the police department plans on hiring a new full-time officer in March, assuming she passes the assessments, another full-time person in July and then a part-time person by July of 2021.
This is according to police chief Charles Haney who is one of the two officers that serves the entire community of about 3,000 people. Haney said they are stretched thin, cannot cover every shift and have had to rely on the Preston Co. Sheriff’s Department and West Virginia State Police.
“Right now, we don’t have officers out every shift,” Haney said. “Sometimes we don’t have anybody out on the weekend. Hopefully, this will put officers out on the street, where we can answer our own calls coming into Kingwood and make the citizens feel and be a little safer.”
Haney said the decision to have a police force of five and a half officers was decided by the city government after looking at national statistics to see how many police officers a city of Kingwood’s size has on average and by working with the West Virginia Municipal League.
The goal, Haney said, is to have officers cover all shifts during the day, meaning the morning and afternoon. For now, he said finding someone to cover the midnight shift was “a stretch” and that they will still rely on the Sheriff’s Department and State Police for that shift.
For the longest time, the department was struggling to find officers because the pay they were offering was not competitive. However, Haney said, the city “stepped up with the pay, so the pay is competitive to the surrounding areas”.