HPD chief addresses community concerns during ‘Coffee With a Cop’
HUNTINGTON - Community members had the opportunity to address questions and concerns directly with the head of the Huntington Police Department on Tuesday morning during “Coffee with a Cop” at Cicada Books & Coffee in the West End.
As the recently sworn-in police chief of the Huntington Police Department, this was the first time Hank Dial had led “Coffee with a Cop” as chief, but not his first time speaking with the community in this type of forum.
″(Community policing) is not something I picked up once I became chief. Every Tuesday and Thursday night since 1995 I have spent with a community group,” he said.
Dial said community input is of the utmost importance to the police officers and is a driving factor in the work they do.
“Our priorities should reflect the priorities of our community,” he said.
Among the top concerns voiced by those at the meeting were drugs and overdoses and the effects those two issues have on the community.
Directly addressing the incident Monday where a couple crashed into a light pole at Ritter Park after overdosing in their vehicle, Dial said the police department is diligently working to keep opioid-impaired drivers off the roadway.
The concern of Narcan and how the police department feels about having to save the same people repeatedly was also brought up.
Dial said the number of repeat offenders has actually gone down since the city implemented its Quick Response Team (QRT) and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which assist people who have overdosed and/or are struggling with drug addiction.
Dial added that more than 20 percent of the people they try to assist seek treatment.
“It takes multiple times for folks to come out of addiction and issues,” he said. “Every addiction is that way. Whether it’s drugs, whether it’s cigarettes, whether it’s alcohol, whether it’s bad relationships - bad things in life take time to get out of.”
West End residents also asked Dial for additional officers on 14th Street West to deter people from using the Central City gazebo as a place of residence.
Dial said he promised to have officers out the following morning to address the issue.
Dial was also questioned about when the public could expect a lip sync video from the Huntington Police Department.
Dial said he has left that in the hands of his officers to decide when and if HPD joins the social media trend.
“Just like every decision we make in life with our money and our time, we have a limited number of assets to police with and we want to do everything, and a video would be good but ... what could we not do while we go do the video?” he said.
While that answer spurred both disappointment and understanding from those at the meeting, Southside resident Richard Cobb said he was pleased the chief had taken time out of his day to speak to residents.
“I feel that it is important,” he said. “We as citizens have a responsibility to the police department to report what we see. ... I only wish that more people would take the time and participate.”