William Hunt

Somerset Police Chief William Hunt (right) greets an event attendee at the Juneteenth celebration held in Somerset.

It’s not often when you can boast your community has “the very best” of anything.

Well, it’s official — The Kentucky Association of Police Chiefs last week tabbed our own William Hunt as 2020 Police Chief of the Year.

This doesn’t surprise us. Chief Hunt has been a solid leader of the Somerset Police Department under two administrations and has emerged as a solid leader for our entire community.

“Chief Hunt is truly a servant leader who has propelled the Somerset Police Department to one of the best in the state,” Somerset Mayor Alan Keck wrote in a letter nominating Hunt for the honor. “Under his direction we’ve added several new provisions, including school resource officers, narcotics officers, detectives and patrol officers. Chief Hunt has tirelessly advocated for departmental pay increases, as well as upgrades to equipment and vehicles. His implementation of community-oriented policing has been an amazing model for our community. He is incredibly active with our community events and present in arenas that many would want to avoid. His leadership is disarming and uniting, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

It’s that community-oriented policing that gets our attention.

In a climate where law enforcement officers are often the targets of criticism for their behavior, Hunt is police chief who is willing to listen — listen to concerns and then work on resolving them.

We were proud of Chief Hunt in June when he took part in in a panel discussion on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight,” with host Renee Shaw. The show featured a frank discussion on hot-button issues involving race and police reform.

While many in law enforcement might become defensive when confronted with these divisive topics, Hunt’s leadership and dedication to making his department the best it can be was on full display.

“There are a lot of things in motion that the average citizen probably doesn’t see,” said Hunt. “... We’ve talked about it beginning with leadership and beginning with the chiefs. I think it’s important, the one thing that we’ve done, I think we’ve always set the tone at Somerset Police that those types of things — racism, systemic racism — (are) unacceptable.”

Hunt said that in his own career, he’s seen a couple of cases where officers testified against other officers in matters of wrongdoing.

“When those officers came to me, they asked for advice,” said Hunt. “The one thing I told them (was), ‘You need to go in and tell the truth. Nothing else matters. Just tell the truth.’ And I think when you have supervisors, leaders, chiefs encouraging their officers to do what’s right and to tell the truth, it goes a long way in that culture of that department.”

And in accepting the honor last week, Hunt made sure to point out that it was the support of Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and City Council — and it was the performance of Somerset’s police officers — that made it possible for SPD to be one of the jewels of Kentucky law enforcement.

That’s all true — but it is Hunt who has been the architect of several noteworthy accomplishments: 

• The Shepherds Watch Program, a community crime prevention program that allows police to partner with those who own security cameras. This allows law enforcement access, with permission, from the owners of the equipment. The program acts as a database, letting officers know where to locate cameras that may have captured criminal activity.

• Hunt was able to help his department reach a full staffing level – difficult to do in Kentucky at this time, according to Shawn Butler, executive director for the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

• Hunt also helped initiate active shooter training that has been taught in more than 30 businesses and organizations, secure funds for new digital radios for officers and vehicles, and run the SPD all while serving as chair of the Lake Cumberland Drug Task Force, as a member of the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Executive Board for U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan, and as the second vice president for the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Commonwealth Journal took part in the active shooter training program and we were impressed with the insightful information SPD provided — information and guidance that could save lives.

We are proud of Chief Hunt and his department and we feel fortunate to have these men and women looking out for us.

Congratulations Chief. It’s an honor well-deserved.

THE COMMONWEALTH JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD consists of Mark Walker, General Manager; Jeff Neal, Editor; Steve Cornelius, Sports Editor; Bill Mardis, Editor Emeritus; Mary Ann Flynn, Advertising; Shirley Randall, Production; and Chris Harris, Staff Writer.

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