Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser announced that the Philippi Police Department soon hopes to expand as the police, city officials and community members celebrated its symbolic new beginning Saturday with an open house, kid's safety day and community block party.
The event took place at its new location on South Main Street.
The celebration was more than just about free food, safety activities and drug awareness; Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said it was a fresh beginning for the police department, which may be hiring a new officer soon. Mouser awarded a new-beginning plaque to the Philippi Police Department that featured the names of all of its current officers.
Philippi Task Force officer E. Evans guides Talitha Fortney, 11, of Belington, as she rides a bike Saturday wearing goggles simulating drunk driving at the Philippi Police Department open house. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman)
"It's a new beginning," Mouser said. "We have a new home, a lot of new equipment and we're trying to get more officers."
The police department is now looking into the possibility of expanding the number of officers employed since its move in early September from Church Street to the Hu Myers Center building, Mouser said, adding that the first group of interviews will begin this Wednesday. Mouser said the force will welcome one or two new police officers soon. Mouser said he would like to have six officers in addition to Philippi Police Chief Jeff Walters.
Walters, while also performing police duties, is responsible for completing administrative tasks and filling out paperwork. Mouser said that it accounts for 70 percent of his duties. The increasing enrollment of Alderson Broaddus University - adding to the city's population that is now over 4,000 - is one more reason for the need. Mouser said that the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommend 1.5 officers per thousand people in the population.
Mouser also said the city wants to add increased community policing, drug enforcement efforts and investigation time to the Philippi Police Department's duties, and more officers would allow that.
"That takes time and a concentrated police effort," Mouser said.
Many of the existing officers, who are familiar with the old house that is now the former police department, said that the new space is more professional and a better environment for its workers.
"I love it," Patrolman Shane Miller said. "It's a lot better work environment. People are apt to be more comfortable there because it looks like a police department. I think we can all agree its improved 110 percent."
The mayor also commented on the old and new police facilities.
"It just was not a place for a police station and this (new one) is great," Mouser said. "As soon as those guys found out they were coming here, you could just see in their eyes the boosted morale."
Citizens and other officials who attended the open house also shared their impressions of the new headquarters.
"It looks a lot better from the outside," Charlotte Wilkinson of Philippi said. "It looks really nice."
The new police headquarters includes a spacious main lobby with a safety glass separating the operations room from the lobby. A conference room is at the center of the complex, in a room between Walters' office, the evidence room, squad room, storage room and a special interview room. Each officer also has an individual office. A separate room holds files and information for officers to use.
Children and families who attended the open house got to see a drug display, get free books from the Philippi Lions Club, enjoy free hot dogs from Jerry and Pam Davis of Philippi, see a replica Ghostbuster vehicle custom-designed by Joe Miner of Philippi and ride a bike through cones while wearing special glasses that simulate drunk driving.
Some officers and members of the Philippi Task Force even had their turns on the bike. Live music was performed by Sherman Wilkinson of Philippi.
"Drugs are a problem everywhere in the state, not just here," Director of the Barbour County Family Resource Network Linda Watson said from her table filled with safety books and information freebies. "The more education we can get out to parents and the community, the better chance we have of combating the problem."
Mouser said all participants at the event were volunteers and that he was very pleased with their assistance.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at email@example.com