FLORA — Carroll Consolidated Schools and the town of Flora hired a veteran school police officer from Kokomo’s Northwestern High School that officials in both towns praise highly.
“It’s like getting Michael Jordan on your basketball team,” said Flora Police Chief Paul Redmon.
Richard Allen Ferguson, a 1982 graduate from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, was a school resource officer at Northwestern High School in Kokomo from 1987 until this year. He worked there as an officer with the Howard County Sheriff Department.
“We knew he was going to be retiring at the end of the year,” said Northwestern principal Al Remaly. “He had such a positive impact on the kids over here that they were bummed when he was leaving.”
Ferguson “wasn’t what I would call your typical police officer, in school,” Remaly explained. “He wasn’t out looking for bad things. He was building relationships with kids.”
That even extended to working out after hours in the school’s fitness room, Remaly added.
“He did it because he just loved being around them and loved setting a good, positive example for them.”
Northwestern’s students returned a “huge” standing ovation at the school’s end-of-year awards day this spring, said Remaly. “He will be missed, that’s for darn sure.”
Ferguson has extensive experience and advanced education in autistic student training, explosive detection, hostage negotiations, tactical operations and critical incidents, according to a release from the Carroll schools. He’s also trained as a canine handler.
Ferguson will start Aug. 12, Carroll’s first teacher day, at a projected cost to the school of $32,000 per year, said superintendent Chris Lagoni. Ferguson is reviewing school safety plans and coordinating with the school principals over the summer.
“He’s obviously done the school resource officer position,” Lagoni said. “We’re starting a new program and he’s going to be a great resource for staff to learn what an SRO does.”
Ferguson was the only one with SRO experience out of several candidates for the position, said Redmon, whose department handled the hiring.
Himself a parent of children in the Carroll schools, “I can’t think of anybody else I’d want at that school,” Redmon said. “It’s a blessing for our department, the school, the community.”
The school district is buying a $14,000 patrol car from Purdue University’s patrol department for the school officer’s use. It’s no more than 3 years old, Lagoni said, adding that surplus patrol cars from the university also typically have lower mileage than used patrol cars available in statewide police auctions.
Lagoni is also working with Delphi superintendent Ralph Walker to start a county safety commission, one of a variety of prerequisites for applying for state grants to cover the cost of a school resource officer.
Lagoni intends to pursue an SRO grant in time for the upcoming school year.