RIPLEY, W.Va. — Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger said he was very satisfied with the success of his department’s “Shield Program” in its inaugural year. The plan was created by Mellinger, working in conjunction with county school officials, to put as many of his deputies as possible in the county’s schools as often as possible.
Everybody on the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department force, including Mellinger, has access to enter the schools randomly an patrol for issues. The idea initially was to make the presence of law enforcement so random, prospective school shooters would be deterred by never being able to know for certain if a deputy would be in a school at a given time.
Mellinger said the program worked well in the 12 schools across Jackson County.
“I think it’s an overwhelming success. We were able to identify a couple of incidents early on that could have been catastrophic if they had come to fruition, but we were able to get an early intervention and put a stop to them,” he explained.
During the coming months of the summer break, Mellinger said they are looking to advance the program to the next level. Jackson County School Superintendent Will Hosaflook has given the green light for installation of active shooter alarm systems in each school.
“They’re audible alarms, very similar to the fire alarm system, but if a student hears that alarm, they know we’ve got a shooter in the school,” the Sheriff said.
Mellinger added those alarms will be identical in all 12 of the county schools, so there will be no confusion over what the alarm means. The county has hired a Shield Program Coordinator who will visit each school each week and work with each student body on active shooter drills. That way they can reacted appropriately when the alarms are activated.
The visits in schools have also created a great rapport for Mellinger’s deputies with students, teachers, and staff.
“We actually took a couple of calls for service at the schools this year, one being a rather serious sexual assault situation. That kid came forward solely based on the rapport he had built with a particular officer,” Mellinger said.