GEORGETOWN, Del. - As with every new school year, there are quite a few new faces, walking the hallways at Georgetown Middle School. But on Wednesday afternoon, one of those faces was an armed officer.
Officer Joey Melvin has been hired for the 2015 school year as a school resource officer for the Georgetown schools. Although there have been district-wide SRO's in past years, this will be the first time that one officer is dedicated to the Georgetown schools alone.
"These hallways in this building," Melvin said. "It's a microcosm of the community."
Melvin said his job is not only to be there in the situation of an emergency, but also to act as a bridge between law enforcement and the community.
"We're here to certainly serve as a deterrent to anything major," he said. "But that's such a small portion of what a proactive SRO should be doing."
The Indian River School District currently has three state troopers acting as SRO's. Two of those troopers are centered at the high schools, and the third is located at the GW Carver Center in Frankford. There is also an officer from the Selbyville Police Department that serves the schools in that community. Melvin, a staff member in the Georgetown Police Department, will be serving the schools in Georgetown alone.
Indian River School District Superintendent Susan Bunting said the reason for these SRO's is simple:
"We're very big on school safety," she said.
Melvin, like all the other officers, is armed, but Georgetown Middle School Principal Michael Williams said parents should not worry. He said that the new position is less of a reaction to current problems, and more of a preparation for any that might arise in the future.
"They're not here because of high crime or high discipline numbers," he said. "It's more of a proactive approach where it's community policing."
Melvin said that he hoped to never use his gun. In fact, he said the greater portion of his job would likely be community engagement.
"Police officers need to be looked at as good guys," he said. "We don't want to be looked at as anything else."
Georgetown mother and grandmother Patti Payne said that she was glad about the new addition. She said that shooting incidents like Colombine and Newtown illustrate that schools need to be prepared just in case.
"It would be nice if people had respect for the teachers, the principal, and the school personnel," she said. "And if they wouldn't cause problems at the schools. But that's not how we live. That's not the world we live in now. So it's a shame, but I feel safe knowing that there is someone there in case there is a problem."