KINGWOOD — Kingwood’s new police officers have backgrounds that give them insight into working in a small town.
Chief Charlie Haney started work in June and Officers Justin Knotts and Cody Kroll joined the force this month.
Kingwood was left without a police department when Chief Todd Nestor and Officer Felix Thorn resigned without explanation in April. They since sued the city and the mayor, saying they were told to resign or be fired because they were investigating “high profile” residents.
Chief Haney has nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience. For 32 years, he was with the Preston County Sheriff’s Department, starting as a jailer/dispatcher and retiring after serving as chief deputy.
Then he worked about two years with WVU Police. Since 2008, though, he has been out of law enforcement and, when his former boss Jim Fields called on behalf of the City of Kingwood, wasn’t sure he wanted to return to the field.
Fields had been recruited by the city to help rebuild the department.
“I said well, I probably could do it,” Haney said. “They need somebody.” There’s also the fact that, “It’s my home.”
A lifelong resident of Kingwood, Haney said small town policing isn’t as busy as at the county level, but, “it’s more hands-on,” and “a little more one-on-one.”
“I just want to project a good image and be available to the citizens and be responsive to their calls and their issues,” Haney said.
His fellow officers echo those thoughts. Knotts, 27, grew up in Kingwood.
“Both my parents worked at the sheriff’s department. Growing up, the most influential people in my life were police officers,” Knotts said. “I know what they did for me, and I’d like to try and do the same for others.”
He started in law enforcement as a federal correctional officer at USP Hazelton. After six years there, he went to the Morgantown Police Department.
“And now I’m here. Kingwood’s home,” Knotts said. “I just like solving problems. If it’s hard, it’s more fun for me.”
Kroll, 33, is an Oakland, Md., native. He knew at about 14 he wanted to enter law enforcement and joined the Maryland State Police Explorer program. He also became a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and has done that for 16 years.
“I’ve always just had a passion for public service since I was young,” Kroll said.
While getting his degree in criminal justice, he did ride-alongs with various departments. After graduation, he worked nine years as an officer in Allegany County, Md., then a year as a Taylor County Sheriff’s deputy.
When the job at Kingwood became available, it was close to home and he liked the family-oriented mind slant of Haney and Fields. The father of two, family is important to him.
“My forte has always been working with kids and warrant service,” Kroll said. He likes the thrill of the chase in hunting down someone with an outstanding warrant.
In Kingwood he looks forward to working at the community level again.