City to Officially Have Second Prevention Resource Officer as Council OKs Board of Education Agreement

By Jeff Toquinto on March 21, 2023 via

Not surprisingly, Bridgeport Police Officer Austin Ash has already been asked the question. In fact, he has been asked the question multiple times every day since he learned of his new position.
The new position involves Ash becoming Bridgeport’s second Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) in the city’s public school system. He will join long-time PRO Jamie Hamrick and her therapy dog Connor in helping manage the four schools within the city’s boundaries officially next year and unofficially this year as he has begun his shadowing of Hamrick.
It is Hamrick’s therapy dog, Connor, that results in the question. And it is one few will probably be surprised he has been asked.
“When I did my first walkthroughs at the schools I was immediately asked by the kids if I had a dog,” said Ash, who has been with the department since April of 2019. “I’ve been asked by a lot of teachers, too.”
While Ash does not come with a therapy dog, he does come with the blessing of Bridgeport City Council. Council recently gave its approval to the agreement between the police department and the Harrison County Board of Education that set the stage for a second officer.
Ash will be based out of Bridgeport Middle School, while Hamrick will be based out of Bridgeport High School. The two will also cover Johnson Elementary and Simpson Elementary. Hamrick has been covering all four schools, which consists of more than 2,500 students and staff, since February of 2005, which has drawn the praise of Chief Mark Rogers and Council members.
“She’s done a great job, but that is way too many students to oversee,” Rogers has said recently.
Now, for the first time in 18 years, she has help. The Doddridge County native who now lives in Harrison County, is looking forward to getting his certifications and beginning in an official capacity for the start of the 2023-24 school year.
“I enjoy working with kids, and I’ve liked to see up close the interaction the students have with Officer Hamrick,” said Ash. “The main thing I’ve noticed is how close many students are to her.
“That is a positive because you become a role model to many of these students at all ages,” he continued. “Some children don’t have that role model at home or may not come from a steady home and need someone to talk to. That’s one of the things the PROs are there for, and you gain the trust of the students to get that.”
As for a dog, Ash said he would not rule that out if he is asked. However, it just does not happen overnight. A dog has to be specifically trained and have the right temperament to do the job, and it is not a cheap endeavor to start.
“The answer for that is likely in the future, but I would not necessarily be opposed to it,” said Ash.
The reason? Ash loves dogs and has two of his own, a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever – the same mix as Connor. If given a green light in the future, one of Ash’s dogs could potentially be trained for the spot or a new addition to his household – which he would have to greenlight – could be trained.
“It’s something I would definitely consider,” said Ash. “Until then, I’m just very excited to have the opportunity. I’m looking forward to it and hoping to make positive impact.”
Editor's Note: Current PRO Jamie Hamrick, right in top photo, gives future PRO Austin Ash a few computer pointers, while the pair is shown below with Hamrick's Therapy Dog Connor. 

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