LACEY – As students came in to Lacey Township High School this year, they were greeted by a new face, as Detective Sgt. Charlie May started this year as the district’s first school resource officer.
May said he was honored to be selected for the position. He graduated from Lacey schools in 2002 and started with the police in 2007.
He said he will help students with decision making, peer pressure, and developing trust so that people come to him if they have problems.
A school resource officer serves as a point person for any issue that a student might have in their lives, Chief Michael DiBella said. The officer builds a relationship with the students and staff. When it comes to drugs, bullying, or problems at home, a student can easily find a receptive ear.
In order to combat the drug epidemic in the county, police have taken on multiple fronts. Enforcement is already done, but it is not enough. Education is an important facet because it will hopefully prevent kids from going down that path, he said.
To that end, he also plans on expanding the Law Enforcement Against Drugs program, which actually goes beyond drugs to other issues like bullying. It was started at Mill Pond but he hopes to expand it to other grades.
Another front is treatment. Lacey joined the Blue Hart program, where people struggling with addiction can turn their drugs over to the police department on Mondays and ask for help. The police will screen them and find addiction treatment programs.
There have been more than a dozen who came in since the program started in Lacey in June, he said.
“We’re not just putting someone into a treatment center and forgetting about them. There’s follow-up. I want to see people move on with their life,” he said.
Mayor Peter Curatolo and the Township Committee attended the Board of Education meeting when May was introduced to the public. He noted how all aspects of Lacey are working together to combat the drug problem, including the town, police, schools, and municipal alliance.
“No one works in silence. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing,” he said.
Board member Nicholas Mirandi spoke about how when he used to be a police officer, and he’d be eating in a restaurant in uniform, parents would point him out to their misbehaving child and say “Be good, or the police officer is going to arrest you.”
“I used to hate that,” he said. People need to get it out of the public mindset that the police are just there to “get you” somehow, and that they are actually here to help.
The new officer comes at a time when the district has upgraded its security, Superintendent Craig Wigley said.
The school buildings had more open access in previous years, and now that is being changed. There is a uniform security standard regarding access to the schools, and access points. “There’s a hometown feel. We don’t want to lose that, but you have to keep people safe.”
Some residents felt discouraged by the change, but the superintendent said it’s a step in the right direction.
“We don’t want to live in fear; we want to live in preparedness,” Wigley said.