Valley police forces to get protective shields

YOUNGSTOWN — Local law enforcement officers soon will be a little safer in the face of extreme danger thanks to a grant from Mahoning County commissioners.

Commissioners have awarded $250,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to provide shields to every department in the county through the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency and to train officers in their use, according to a news release from Youngstown State University.

The purpose of the grant is to provide better cover for police responding to an active shooter.

YSU spokesperson Becky Rose said Ed Villone, commander of the university’s police academy, wrote the proposal for the grant that will provide one shield to each police department in Mahoning County.

Rose said the shields have arrived, and the academy already has had one training session and another is scheduled for late May. She said the academy also will begin training officers to be trainers in the use of the shields.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the grant just made sense.

“Ed had approached us, and we had spoken with Sheriff (Jerry) Greene,” he said. “Police officers today face unprecedented situations. Just look at all the school shootings, where they’re outgunned.

These shields will provide extra protection for any type of situation they go into.

In addition to shield-use training, Traficanti said the grant provides active-shooter training as well.

“You never know when that call is going to come, so the training portion and the shields made perfect sense to help law enforcement,” he said.

Villone said he developed the idea after seeing the fatal shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022, which killed 19 students and teachers and injured 17 others. He said he approached commissioners with a tentative proposal within a month of that event.

Mahoning County received more than $44 million in ARP funds to offset the financial burden created by the COVID-19 pandemic. With this grant, commissioners have spent more than $1.7 million of that to support law enforcement, courts and safety services in the county.

In early 2022, the board awarded $650,000 to the Mahoning County Domestic Court to hire a full-time magistrate and assistant, making it easier and faster for domestic violence victims to obtain protection orders.

In February 2022, they allocated $250,000 to Animal Charity of Ohio to hire a second humane agent for three years. The group operates on donations.

In March 2023, commissioners awarded Coitsville Fire Department $144,000 toward the cost of building new restrooms at its fire station on North Hubbard Road for decontamination of their firefighting gear after returning from an ambulance or fire call.

They allocated $400,000 in May 2023 to the Mahoning County Fire Chiefs Association for scholarships to encourage more people to enter the emergency medical services and firefighting fields.

Ed Runyan contributed to this report

Have an interesting story? Contact Dan Pompili at dpompili@vindy.com


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