POINT PLEASANT — Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, gave the keynote speech at this week’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner, sponsored by the Point Pleasant Rotary.
Speaking to a room filled with law enforcement officers and their families, Morrisey spoke about instances where his office worked together with officers, talking about efforts to thwart human trafficking and battle the opiate epidemic.
On the “scourge of human trafficking,” Morrisey said his office was working with law enforcement to assist in exposing those identified as human traffickers, to prevent them from moving between communities where they continue to commit the same crimes. He added his office had also worked to update officers on electronic devices human traffickers use to keep track of their victims.
“Of course, we can’t talk about human trafficking without talking about the opioid epidemic,” Morrisey said. “This is an issue that pervades every aspect of our lives here in this state.”
Morrisey talked about the connection between addiction and human trafficking and how that correlation was becoming a “growing and serious problem.”
He said in terms of opiate addiction, his office tried to approach it holistically, going after the supply and demand side of it, assisting the education component and attempting to facilitate recovery efforts. Morrisey said his office had taken on the pharmaceutical supply chain; engaged with young people about the dangers of drugs; and facilitated communication between those who want to join the recovery community to help those in need.
“You can’t sue or prosecute your way out of this,” Morrisey said of the opiate epidemic.
Morrisey said he felt “we have to change the culture on this very important issue” and the “fight against drug abuse is the challenge of our time.”
Morrisey added: “None of this work would be possible but for you and tonight that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to honor the work that you do…serving the citizens of Mason County.”
Bryan Stepp from Point Pleasant Rotary then introduced the Officer of the Year Award, saying six officers were nominated by their peers for the award. Chosen as the winner was Lt. Troy Stewart of the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. A 1987 graduate of Wahama High School, Stewart enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduation and has been a driving force in the Mason County D.A.R.E. program in local schools, educating young children on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Stewart accepted his personalized award, a cash award and the traveling trophy with his name on it. His wife Lisa was also presented a gift from Rotary. Lt. Stewart was presented the award by Morrisey.
This was the fifth year for the dinner, with all law enforcement officers and their families in Mason County invited to a free meal and fellowship. The event was held at Trinity UM Church and was funded with a grant from the Community Foundation of Mason County and by the donations of several sponsors.
The honor guard from the Mason County Sheriff’s Department presented the colors.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.