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Safety must be the priority

Weirton’s city manager says budgetary concerns are behind his decision to restructure the city’s police department in a move he announced during Monday’s Weirton Council meeting.

While we understand wanting to keep a close eye on expenses, especially when finances are uncertain right now as a result of the COVID pandemic, and the possibility these moves may only be temporary, we still question the decision.

To be clear, this is not a defunding of the Weirton Police Department. The city will continue to provide money for the department’s operations, equipment, the officers’ salaries and pensions, and more. It is, however, a reorganization of the structure which has kept the community safe for many years.

Police headquarters will include the chief and deputy chief, as well as a juvenile officer and a special projects officer.

Several of the specialized divisions within the department — detectives, street crimes and the Special Response Team — are being deactivated, with the officers involved placed fully into the patrol division.

In addition, the city will pull two of its officers from their duties as prevention resource officers at Weir High School and Weir Middle School, leaving hundreds of our youth without that vital service unless another agency steps in.

The department’s K-9 division will remain. The department also will continue to be represented within the Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug Task Force.

The city manager has said these moves will cut down on overtime costs from the department. Again, we understand the financial concern, but another question must be asked.

Will these moves affect the safety of the people of Weirton?

Weirton has been cited multiple times as being among the safest cities in West Virginia. That is because of the dedicated work of the city’s police and fire departments.

That can’t be allowed to change.

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