Police look to restore faith

BELINGTON – Officers from all of Barbour County’s law enforcement agencies will soon gather to renew a mutual assistance agreement in an effort to restore the community’s faith in the local police.

Belington Police Chief D.J. Harris asked for Belington City Council’s approval and support Thursday to renew the mutual aid agreement. Council agreed to participate by a unanimous vote.

“We’re wanting to do this as a positive thing,” Harris said. “Law enforcement here in the county has had a little bit of a black eye for a little bit. I’m kind of wanting to gain that trust back from our public. All the departments are on the same page.”

Belington Mayor Bobby King, along with other local officials, will meet with law enforcement officers at the agreement signing. The date for this event has not been determined. Harris said it will depend on the scheduling between all the parties involved. Harris said the plan is to meet at Philip Barbour High School because Barbour County Commission President Tim McDaniel works there as a teacher.

Participating law enforcement agencies will include the Junior Police Department, Belington Police Department, Philippi Police Department, the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department and the Barbour County Parks and Recreations Police Department.

What the mutual aid agreement ensures that, in certain circumstances, each police department may travel outside of its jurisdiction to assist another police department. The Barbour County Sheriff’s Department already has county wide jurisdiction and could help in any of the other locations as needed, but the other departments, through the agreement, would be able to do the same when a situation called for it.

“We can go help someone and they can also come help us,” Harris said, adding that a signed mutual aid agreement will help to cover any liabilities derived from the assistance between the various police agencies.

The special circumstances for the mutual aid, according to the agreement, would be during emergency situations, DUI Task Force sobriety check points and Drug Task Force interdiction that require manpower and agencies.

Emergencies, as defined by the agreement, include potential conditions that pose immediate threat to life or property that exceed the resources and the capability of a particular police agency to bring the situation under control.

Themutual aid agreement is not the first step that Barbour County police have made to renew the faith of citizens. On March 21, newly appointed Sheriff Philip Ferguson and his entire staff renewed their oath of service to the community.

“It’s showing the citizens of the county that we’re here to mend and ready to go forward,” Ferguson said that day.

The Barbour County Commission appointed Ferguson sheriff on March 15, following former sheriff John Hawkins’ guilty plea to a federal mail fraud charge in February.