Should the funding be awarded as anticipated, at least one but possibly both of Mingo County’s high schools and their feeder schools will each be getting a prevention research officer (PRO) in the near future.
That news came at last week’s Mingo County Board of Education regular meeting, delivered by Mingo County Grant Coordinator Leigh Ann Ray during her report to the board regarding the school program.
Ray said the grant, which covers the majority of an officer’s salary, originates from JAG (Justice Assistance Grant), and that it just recently became obtainable again to counties like Mingo.
“When I saw the money had again become available, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.
Ray said the PRO officer, who is at a school for the purpose of creating a presence as well as to avert potential problems in advance, has to be someone having been trained and certified as a police officer at the state police academy, such as a sheriff’s deputy.
The officer is also required to undergo prevention research officer training in order to meet and maintain the personnel qualifications set forth by JAG.
“The obvious benefit of having a PRO officer in the schools is they’re on the front lines with these kids,” she said.
“They’re already there, which helps you head off a problem before it actually occurs. They also can help make sure these kids go in the right and not wrong direction,” she said.
The PRO officer additionally has procedural guidelines to follow while operating at the school, Ray added.
“We applied for funding to get an officer in both Tug Valley and Mingo Central and we may only get one,” she said. “Should we only get one, we will then have to make other accommodations to get a presence in the remaining school and its feeders. Possibly the board could consider providing funding for the other officer if that becomes necessary.”
Ray said one PRO officer has already been determined — Lt. Joey Ferris with the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department.
“Joey’s actually been doing some of this kind of work on his own,” she said. “Like it is for him now, he and the possible other officer will remain as deputies with the sheriff’s office or whatever other police agency they might come from. But once they actually become prevention research officers, they’ll have a prescribed program which they’ll use to work with students and staff to ensure compliance with the grant.”
Board member John Preece asked if the PRO officer would be in uniform while at the school. Ray said the officer would be in uniform, which she additionally pointed out is a significant factor in the “creation of a presence” which is intended to be achieved at the schools.
“As I pointed out, we’ve applied for funding for a PRO at both our high schools and we haven’t yet had a review of our application,” she said. “But I’m hopeful we will get funding for at least one because it’s a great program and one that would be a great benefit to our schools.”