HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — When Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum offered Huntington Mayor Steve Williams police officers to assist in the city’s efforts to eradicate crime, Williams referred the issue to city attorney Scott Damron to better understand the legality of the matter.
“I didn’t turn it down,” Williams said Tuesday before the Huntington City Council. “I’d been a damned fool if I had, and it would have been rude.”
Huntington’s 19th homicide happened Dec. 14, adding to an already violent year in the city. Williams said on MetroNews “Talkline” that day a turf war between drug gangs was behind the most recent shootings, adding the use of heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine have also increased.
Williams said Tuesday Tatum called him early last week in regards to assistance in addressing crime in Huntington.
“Mayor Tatum, for me as he is for all of you, is first and foremost a good friend. He is a valued colleague. He’s a mayor I have enjoyed working beside,” he said. “Frankly, getting a telephone call from him offering assistance was not a surprise. That’s in his nature.”
Williams continued, saying he was contacted by WSAZ-TV about the offer, to which Williams responded in a statement saying while appreciative, he hoped the city would not need the assistance of the Barboursville Police Department because of the additional use of West Virginia State Police among other law enforcement agencies.
According to Damron, it would be difficult for the Barboursville Police Department to work in Huntington as the agency does not have authority over the city as the West Virginia State Police has in order to address illegal activity.
“There is a statute that allows cooperation between law enforcement agencies,” he said. “From my reading of the statute, it’s stated such that it’s more toward an acute emergent type of situation like a riot or something like that, or a municipality that does not have the capabilities to investigate a crime.”
Amron said the officers from the different forces receive different training, and the Barboursville police officers would remain employees of the Barboursville Police Department despite working in Huntington.
“We’d have substantial liability issues,” he added.
Williams said he has heard from other local leaders, and he is appreciative of all of the outreach.
“We have had numerous telephone calls from other mayors throughout the state saying, ‘If there’s any way that we can help, certainly we’re here to stand by you,'” he said.