New Huntington police chief wants to ‘lead by example’ when tackling drug crisis

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — New Huntington Police Chief Karl Colder says he still had a “burning desire” to help the city tackle the ongoing drug crisis after retiring from a federal leadership position.

Karl Colder

Chief Karl Colder was appointed by Huntington City Council last week, becoming the first Black police chief in the city’s history.

His goal is to establish a presence in the community and lead by example.

“I don’t believe in leading from behind my desk,” Colder told MetroNews. “I think it’s important to collaborate with the community and with your counterparts. That’s how we get things accomplished.”

Colder previously served as a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for three decades. He was also the president of Colder Allied Consulting LLC, which provides consultation services regarding program performance and information management.

Colder also teaches in Loudon County, Virginia where he prepares students for jobs in law enforcement and criminal justice.

His work took him all over the country from Philadelphia, Pa. to the Caribbean to Dallas, Tx. to Washington D.C.

The opioid epidemic remains a problem across the nation, but is specifically concerning in Huntington, which is why Colder said it’s one of his top priorities.

“It’s something that is really hurting the culture of a community,” he said, adding his job is not about the money. “It’s about doing something to save lives.”

When Colder was with the DEA, he saw West Virginia leading the nation in overdose deaths and realized the resources did not match up with the need, so he put in an assistant special agent to look after the state.

The chief said he sees this new position as a chance to get back into law enforcement after retiring, making the move from Virginia.

Colder said he plans to work with surrounding law enforcement agencies to tackle the drug problem.

“The drugs come from various areas outside this state and you need to share that wealth of experience with your partners,” he said.

He’s hoping his police officers can work as a team to up recruitment and present a good image.

“I’m looking for leaders and how they’re thinking to make them more expansive. Think about bigger pictures and really understanding that they can really make a difference in Huntington,” Colder said.

He’d like to police department to be more diverse.

“We have to get up to speed with being the face of the community in terms of our officers and being a little more diverse,” he said.

While Colder said he knows being a police officer is a tough job in today’s society, his main goal is to make sure his force is always doing okay physically and mentally.

“Go to work, treat people with respect and come home safe every day. That’s what we strive to do,” Colder said.

On Monday, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams plans to go before council for the approval of longtime Huntington Police officer Lt. Phil Watkins for the new position of deputy chief. Lt. Watkins who was the other finalist in the running for chief. If approved, Watkins would serve as Chief Colder’s second in command.

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