BUCKHANNON – At their weekly meeting Thursday, Upshur County Commission approved assigning deputy Joseph Barcus as the Prevention Resource Officer at the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
Sheriff Virgil Miller said Barcus will be taking over for Cpl. Rodney Rolenson; Cpl. Dewaine Linger will remain the PRO officer at the high school.
“Regulations dictate an officer must have at least two years of experience on the road — I can’t even consider them for the PRO officer position without that,” Miller said. “They must also be a certified officer, but other than those requirements, you look for somebody who wants to be there and wants to do the job. You look for somebody who is personable and can get along with teachers. We’ve never had an issue — our people always got along well with the administration staff at both schools — and ideally you look for somebody who likes to be around kids.”
The new sheriff said a PRO officer’s primary concern is the security of the school and everyone in it.
“The top priority is the security of the school, and they also provide a presence at the school that kids and adults can see,” Miller said. “They’ll deal with any issues that arise. I know Dewaine Linger makes a perimeter check around the school, makes sure all the doors are locked before he leaves. Usually the principal and the PRO officer are in close proximity, and I think they’ve always worked well together.”
He said the officers also educate students on specific subjects, such as drug and tobacco awareness.
“When the officers teach, it’s usually during a health class or physical education,” Miller said. “They are usually dealing with subjects like cigarettes, tobacco or drugs. They are required to attend training specifically for PRO officers, as well as updates and training during the summer months, when school isn’t in session.”
Miller said he helped start the PRO officer program in Upshur County several years ago to provide a steady presence at the schools.
“We were having so many issues with the high school, with officers being pulled off the road to handle situations happening, whether it was an assault or sexual harassment,” Miller said. “I felt it was better to work with the commission to get somebody fulltime.”