WEIRTON, W.Va. (WTRF) -Weirton City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo said the changes made Wednesday to the city’s police department are not a defunding of the police but a reorganization and that “hysteria” in the community is fueled by “misunderstanding” of the restructuring.
He said the city is reorganizing the department to make better use of its resources.
The restructuring plan includes these items:
- Headquarters of the Police Department will be the Police Chief, deputy police chief, a juvenile officer, and a special police officer. The police chief will select individuals to fill those positions at his own discretion
- The Special Response Team is deactivated. All equipment will be returned to the Police Chief or his designee
- The Detective Divisions is deactivated.
- The Street Crimes Unit is deactivated.
- The two School Resource Officers working at Weir High and Middle School will no longer be filled by the city. The officers assigned will return to full-time duty for the City of Weirton.
- Each turn will handle their own felony cases, juvenile cases, drug cases, and evidence collection. Search warrant kits with fingerprint powder, swabs, GSR kits, etc will be places in the Supervisors’ cars
- Beginning July 19, 2020 40 hour weeks start on Sundays and crew changes will be at the discretion of the Police Chief or his designee.
School Resource Officers for Brooke High School will no longer be sourced from the Weirton Police Department.
“Many people can do this job,” DiBartolomeo said regarding the school resource officer role.
The city’s version of what DiBartolomeo calls a SWAT team, the Special Resource Team, is now disbanded.
“More police will be out on the street,” he noted when explaining the moves.
He also cited fiscal reasons for the changes.
People think of Weirton as being a rich city, but the population is in decline and resources are down.Joe DiBartolomeo, Weirton City Manager
DiBartolomeo said this change is not about racial inequity or defunding the police department, and said the department recently received a 24% raise and updated equipment. He noted that police department officers are not happy about the changes.
The police union is expected to comment on the restructuring Friday.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the Weirton city building Thursday afternoon. DiBartolomeo did not object to the protesters and said this allows the city an opportunity to show the city’s perspective.