Family played a role in two New Albany police officers' decisions to apply for special assignments.

Family played a role in two New Albany police officers' decisions to apply for special assignments.

Leland Kelly will take over as the local DARE officer this year and Ryan Southers will become the New Albany-Plain Local school resource officer in January 2014.

Kelly, who has been with the New Albany department since 2007, said he is interested in drug-prevention programs because he had an immediate family member who "threw away a productive life" because of drugs.

"Drugs damage them and their families," he said. "I know from personal experience."

Kelly said one of the reasons he became a police officer was to help fight the war on drugs.

He said he began his police career at the Marion Police Department, where he worked on drug cases and volunteered to help with a youth boxing program designed to keep kids off the streets.

He said New Albany doesn't have programs like the youth boxing league but DARE, an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, will help him stay involved by teaching young people about the dangers of drugs.

"If you can make an impact early on, when they are still impressionable before they start junior high school, you can keep them from going down the wrong path," Kelly said.

Kelly is expected to be in training for the DARE program through Oct. 4, said interim police Chief Greg Jones.

Once he has completed the program, Kelly said, he will work with fifth- and seventh-graders in the New Albany-Plain Local schools.

The previous DARE officer was Sgt. Kris Daniels, who was promoted to sergeant in the spring. Daniels also has served as school resource officer.

Back to school

Southers, who has been a patrol officer in New Albany for 12 years, said he was looking for a new challenge, so he decided to go back to school.

"My daughter's 5 years old and just started school," Southers said. "It's funny. She started school this year and so will I."

Southers said he will work with current resource officer Kevin Deckop through January, when he will take over.

"I was interested in getting into a new experience and learning new skills," Southers said. "I think it will be a good change. You need to keep things new and exciting."

The school resource officer has an office in New Albany High School and works in all school buildings.

New detective

Meanwhile, Deckop will transition from school resource officer to detective in January. Jeff Wall, who has worked as the department's detective for the past six years, is going back on patrol, Jones said.

Jones said the department has a six-year limit on special assignments.

To apply for a special assignment, Jones said, officers must have worked full time for three years, be interested in the position and have no disciplinary problems.

Deckop said he has been interested in the detective position since starting with the police department as a reserve officer in 1997.

He began working full time in 1999 and has worked on bicycle patrol in addition to serving as school resource officer.

Deckop said he is looking forward to dealing with larger crimes as well as looking into smaller crimes that people think little about.

He said officers take initial reports but don't often get to follow up on crimes. As the department's detective, he said, he will look deeper into all crimes in an effort to "catch the bad guys."

All officers who are changing positions interviewed with Jones, Daniels and Deputy City Administrator Debra Mecozzi.

The two officers who interviewed for the school-related positions also were interviewed by an official from the New Albany-Plain Local School District.

"We selected two good candidates that bring years of experience with them," Daniels said. "Due to their professional and personal experience, they absolutely will be able to relate to and mentor the students and become positive role models that the kids hopefully can attach themselves to."