News, School News

Barney closes 26-year career in law enforcement

by Kate Evans

Morgan County’s Prevention Resource Officer,  Corporal Kevin Barney, is retiring from his position in Morgan County Schools, and closing a career as a deputy for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department.

Barney has served as the county’s Prevention Resource Officer (PRO officer) for 16 years, and worked in law enforcement for a total of 26 years, with 22 years with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department.

Barney also served as Town of Bath police and then did two years as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Frederick County, Virginia before returning to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and becoming a Prevention Resource Officer.

Barney will stay on after his retirement as a special deputy with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department to help out with transports, big situations  or emergencies as needed. Barney has agreed to also help the new Prevention Resource Officer with training and easing into with the job.

Kevin Barney.

The Prevention Resource Officer’s responsibilities in the schools include prevention, safety, education, mentoring and performing law enforcement functions in the school setting.

The prevention resource officer program is funded annually through a grant and is supplemented by funding from the Morgan County School Board and the Morgan County Commission.  The Sheriff’s Department funds all non-salary expenses, which include travel, training, gasoline, equipment, uniforms, supplies, a vehicle and vehicle maintenance.

Barney’s main location as a Prevention Resource Officer was at Berkeley Springs High School and secondarily Warm Springs Middle School, but he responded to incidents and issues in every school.

Barney said that the job was primarily providing a safe and secure school environment but also  involved interacting with children, especially any child in distress.

A presence in schools

Barney has met with students that were having issues, talked with parents and taught classes on important  topics at all county schools.

Some classes and presentations   dealt with bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, teen dating violence and internet safety.

Other issues that came up during his time as PRO included cell phones, texting, Facebook, internet use, TikTok, SnapChat, social media, terroristic threats about harming  a school, staff and other students and inappropriate photos being passed around, Barney said.

Barney said there have been more school expulsions the last couple of years.  With COVID, kids had lost transition time and social skills and their perception of what was acceptable.  But overall the majority of kids in the schools are really good kids, he said.

Corporal Barney said he’d been accepted in the schools from day one and has maintained a great relationship with the schools over the years.  Teachers have been great letting him in the classroom and administrators welcoming him into the buildings.

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with really good people,”  Barney said.

Along with his school PRO Officer duties and extensive paperwork, Barney responded to emergencies with other Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputies.  He was also a member of the local/tri-county SWAT team for close to five years.

Barney has also worked as a Prevention Resource Officer liaison for other PRO officers in this region.

Barney has enjoyed working with kids day-to-day and said that they appreciate what he’s done –intervening if a kid is being bothered in the cafeteria or taking time to talk with them if they have an issue.

Barney has watched a lot of kids grow up over the years and seen a lot of them in the community.  They’ll come to him and shake his hand or give him a hug, which makes him feel good.

The Prevention Resource Officer is an important hire and  specialty. It’s not for everyone, Barney noted.  Other deputies have specialties like domestics or traffic enforcement.

Barney feels he’s done a good job and is ending on a good note with retiring now with his age and time of service.  He’s been dedicated as law enforcement-doing the job to serve the community and keep people safe.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said she’d been working with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department for the past few months and is thrilled that the Prevention Resource Officer program will continue after Barney’s retirement.

A candidate for the position was recommended at last week’s Morgan County Commission meeting. The county would be applying for the grant to help fund his salary and benefits.  Tuttle hoped he would be trained this summer and can start the job when school begins this fall.

Tuttle said they certainly appreciate the dedication that Corporal Barney has given to Morgan County students and the community.

“He’s been a big support and a lot of help in many student situations.  We are going to miss him,” Tuttle said.

Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said that the Prevention Resource Officer position is of great importance in today’s society.  It’s a good policy to have a law enforcement school liaison with all the issues affecting youth at an early age — sexting, vaping, terroristic threats, domestic issues and mental health challenges.

It’s important to have a law enforcement presence at schools  for kids to have someone to come to as an advisor if they’ve been victimized or bullied.  It takes a special police officer to do it and Corporal  Barney has been well-suited for the position, Bohrer said.

The candidate they’ve recommended for the Prevention Resource Officer position is a retired officer from Virginia who worked in the school system there in a similar position.  They will have to get him certified in West Virginia before his training can begin.