Family business

N.C. man content as police officer

Donnie Blankenship has found contentment in life outside the paddock as a full-time police officer for the Chester Police Department. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

CHESTER, W.Va. — The city has at least one police officer on the roster who is not afraid of a little horsepower.

Donnie Blankenship, who has been employed full-time as a patrolman in Chester for two years, came a little late to his law enforcement career compared to some.

He always wanted to be a police officer like his grandfather, who served briefly as Hancock County Sheriff, However, he didn’t pursue that dream until several years ago.

“I trained horses at Mountaineer racetrack” with the rest of his family, Blankenship said, He graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy in April 2018.

He had gotten bit by the blue bug after riding along with his grandfather, who was a Hancock County deputy, for more than three decades before being appointed to the remainder of his former boss, Jeff Woofter’s term.

Blankenship got his start with New Cumberland Police Department and elected to still work there part-time after coming to Chester.

He and his wife Anne still live in New Cumberland with their 12-year-old son who attends St. Paul School in downtown Weirton.

Most police officers have a niche like narcotics interdiction. But Blankenship said that his roots in small town departments have led to have a diverse work load and simple tastes.

“I like patrolling the streets and running traffic but also serving warrants. I got into law enforcement at age 32.,” he said, adding that a lot of patrol officers in larger departments may respond to an initial call, which is then referred to a colleague in the detective bureau for further investigation.

That is why he prefers working for smaller departments. “You do a little bit of everything, you work your own case and do a little bit of everything,” he explained.

January brought new administrations at both the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, where former bosses Scott Gittings and Todd Murray, find themselves and the Chester Police Department, where Chuck Stanley replaced Murray as chief.

Blankenship credits a lot of good teamwork between both agencies and a cooperative spirit, as resulting in my more effective law enforcement. “They work well together and click, and (Chester police) also train with the Hancock County Sheriff.”

On any given day, it is not usual to see a traffic stop involving Chester police on one side of Carolina Avenue and one involving the Hancock County sheriff a little further down the street.

Will his son elect to follow in his footsteps as part of a new family legacy? Blankenship doesn’t know. He said his son doesn’t really mention it, but he does bring up serving in the military — the U.S. Navy and Air Force specifically.

The family still has horses, but Blankenship still is content busting bad guys and getting kids out of bad situations. “I plan on staying in Chester. I’m really not sure what the future holds for our department, but I am content here.”


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