Upshur County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Coffman addresses the commission with a request for new tactical year at its Aug. 25 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Commission OKs sheriff’s funding request for enhanced tactical gear for active shooter situations

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved a funding request for new tactical equipment for the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.

Upshur County Sheriff Virgil Miller and Chief Deputy Mike Coffman attended the Aug. 25 Upshur County Commission meeting to request funds to purchase new tactical equipment and a new K-9 unit. Coffman said their current K-9 is getting old and has developed health issues recently. The sheriff’s office attempted to gain grant funding to pay for the dog, but their grant request was denied.

“There’s multiple companies that we’ve been checking with and the one the city police uses and has had good success with, is up in Pennsylvania and the training for the canine and the officer is $21,500,” Coffman said. “I have checked with another company in Parkersburg that Clarksburg PD, Parkersburg, Wood County and Jackson County is using. With this company, I can get a price down to that somewhere around the $12,000 mark.”

With both companies, training, certification of the dog, and certification of the handler are included with the prices. Coffman said their office had a K-9 unit for a long time, but the dog’s role is more important than ever. The K-9 will also serve a dual purpose as a tracking and drug dog.

The Upshur County Sheriff’s Office also applied for a grant for new tactical gear to deal with situations involving active shooters. Their office did not receive the grant, so they approached the county to help them receive gear for all 12 of their officers.

“We can’t send our men and women officers into harm’s way without providing them with the proper equipment,” Coffman said.

He said the vests they currently use would not have stopped the bullet Coffman was shot with during a shooting that occurred June 16. Coffman has since returned to light duty at the office.

“We have 12 officers, and I think it’s one of those situations where don’t know what officer is going to respond to what or be in what situation,” Coffman said. “We have the PRO officers that are in schools and as you know, school shootings are something that we have to deal with as well.”

Coffman said a set of gear will cost approximately $4,728 for each officer. The Upshur County Commission approved Coffman’s request for the gear, using American Rescue Plan Act funds. The commission tabled the decision about the K-9 unit until they ask the Mountain Lakes Drug and Violent Crime Unit, of which both the sheriff’s office and the Buckhannon Police Department are a part, if they would be willing to split the cost of the new dog.

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