Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $692,000)
The Huntington Police Department (HPD) aims to improve public trust and community-police relationships through the Community Outreach and Policing Engagement (COPE) program. West Virginia currently leads the nation in overdoses per capita, with Cabell County having the second-highest number of overdoses in the state. Suicide mortality rates in West Virginia have also increased in recent years. Substance use and serious mental illness are leading causes of homelessness, exacerbating both problems. Additionally, recent events have led to a decline in community-police relations across the country.
The COPE program aims to bridge the gap between police and the community by offering mental health resources to criminal offenders, victims, and families. HPD plans to hire a mental health liaison to address mental health barriers that may lead to more violence-prone neighborhoods. The department also intends to hire two community engagement coordinators to build bonds between law enforcement, community institutions, service providers, citizen and neighborhood groups, local businesses, and others in a full community policing approach. Public engagement software will be utilized to monitor citizen and victim interactions with officers.
In the first six months, HPD will complete the hiring process for the mental health liaison and community outreach workers, enroll all officers in the Power Engage subscription, and plan for the Citizen Academy. In the following six months, performance data will be collected from the mental health liaison and community engagement workers to adjust community outreach program objectives based on their success. The Citizen Engagement software will also be monitored for successful use in outreach planning. The COPE program is a proactive approach to policing that will enhance the department's community policing model and improve public trust and community-police relationships.