UPDATE (MARCH 30, 2021 5:05 p.m.):
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws announced Tuesday that Interim Police Chief Eric Powell will serve as the next Police Chief of the Morgantown Police Department. The hiring comes after the resignation of Chief Ed Preston in June 2020.
“I am honored to lead a team of professional men and women who strive every day to serve the City of Morgantown with compassion and commitment,” said Powell. “It is a great honor to have the support of our community and city leadership. We will continue to work together to keep Morgantown and its citizens safe.”
A native of Morgantown, Powell joined the Morgantown Police Department in 1997. Prior to his employment with the MPD, he was a correctional officer for the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department for four years. During his tenure with the Morgantown Police Department, he has served as an officer, detective, first-line supervisor, and deputy chief.
Powell has been closely involved in the management of the department and is responsible for all patrol operations as deputy chief. Powell is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the West Virginia Chiefs of Police Association, among many other associations.
He said he’s had his eye on his new job ever since he was put in his first leadership position.
“That was kind of my desire,” he said. “That was my goal ever since I began working in a supervisory role. It’s always been an aspiration of mine to become chief someday and here I am.”
“Eric brings with him a great deal of experience in law enforcement,” said City Manager Kim Haws. “While serving as interim chief over the past several months Eric has proved that he is a capable leader with the community’s best interest at heart. He is always looking for ways to improve the department and its relationship with all citizens.”
Haws is not wrong because Powell plans to improve on everything he inherits and he plans on using lessons learned as interim chief. He said there are always a number of ways the department could improve its service to the community.
The one he especially highlighted was communication.
“We’re really going to step up our efforts in doing community outreach and community engagement, getting a really good dialogue developed between the need the community sees out there and hopefully just expanding upon our communications, being open and better about letting people know what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why,” Powell said.
“That’s really important, so the communications thing is something that I think we could definitely almost always improve upon. But it’s something that I’m going to definitely work hard to instill that in the officers here and at the department as a whole.”
The new chief said he has always understood the importance of communication and that reflected in his handling of social justice protests in Morgantown during the summer of 2020.
While many cities erupted in violence, Morgantown stayed almost entirely peaceful. Powell credits that to communicating with community organizers and the willingness of both sides to listen.
“I am very proud of how we dealt with that particular situation,” he said. “I think we did the right thing with respect with meeting with the parties that were organizing these things and gaining an understanding of what they wanted to do and helping them to facilitate this in a safe way that wouldn’t endanger people’s lives and cause problems. And I think it was a success story.”
Powell said he hopes to have other success stories in the department during his tenure as Chief of Morgantown Police. He thanked everyone who has shown him support and those who put him in a position that is a dream come true.
“Thank you to all the well wishers and for all the congratulations. I greatly appreciate it and I’ll do my best to continue the exemplary performance of this department.”