Dismissed city police officers join in solace

By COURTNEY HESSLER

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Seven months ago, four eager young men took the first step to becoming Huntington police officers at a hiring ceremony at City Hall.

One of the rookies, Timothy Chaffin, 21, of Salt Rock, said working as a Huntington police officer was an amazing job.

“We had been on our own for a little over a month. You could tell things were going smoothly. The morale was good,” he said. “When the news came that they were going to lay off people, morale dropped. It wasn’t the same department.”

On Thursday, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams authorized reductions that ended with the termination of 11 officers and six civilians — three record clerks, an administrative assistant, an IT technician and a fleet coordinator —  and seven firefighters.

Chaffin and his academy brothers — Tyler Meade, 21, of Huntington; Colin Cooper, 22, of Milton; and James Maynard, 20, of Genoa — were among those to lose their jobs. They were hired June 6 and graduated from the West Virginia Police Academy on Sept. 30 before going into intensive training at the Huntington Police Department.

After hearing the news, the group joined together for comfort and to apply for a position with the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department.

The Cabell County Commission granted Sheriff Chuck Zerkle’s request for new testing material for a test that would start the process for that department to add four new deputies to the department. The test has not been administered since 2013, Zerkle said.

Chaffin said with just four positions open, he knew the odds were not favorable.

“We filled out applications, but like anything else, we have to go through the process. It’s frustrating,” he said. “The delay between jobs is a lot bigger as an officer. If you got fired from a grocery store, you could just go to another grocery store.”

Cooper said he did not blame the department for the cut and said he was worried about its future and employees.

“It’s going to drastically affect the department,” he said. “They are having to bring people from the detective bureau down to patrol. People won’t be investigating heinous crimes. It would honestly take 20 officers each shift to make it happen.”

Chaffin said before the cuts, HPD averaged 10-11 officers a shift. One thing that keeps the group hopeful is the community.

Even on Thursday, the group praised the people they grew to know and respect at their job.

“If anything, I feel like our bond is stronger. They are still my brothers,” Chaffin said. “It was a good department to get experience, training. It’s a very serious department. At the time I was there, I thoroughly enjoyed my job.

“I enjoyed my time there. Everyone at the department treated us well. They treated us with respect. In the future, if everything works out, maybe I’ll go back.”

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