With the start of the 2014-’15 school year students, parents and teachers will be introduced to additional School Resource Officers (SRO) for the Milford School District. Pfc Theresa Bloodswoth and Pfc Matt Smith will be working alongside SRO Robert Masten. Making the move from patrolman to SRO, Masten made a transition last year into the position where he interacts with Milford students and parents.
Graduating from Milford High School in 1994, Masten began with MPD in 2002 where he has served in several capacities including patrolman and community policing. Masten is no stranger to working in schools, receiving his SRO National Certification in 2005, he worked as the Milford School Resource Officer following officer Dave Taulbee. In 2013 Masten took over the position again after former School Resource Officer Joey Melvin accepted a job as Management Analysis under the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
“Out of high school I wanted to teach. When I transferred to work into law enforcement I still had a desire to work in the schools,” said Masten. “I worked closely with Dave Taulbee and took every opportunity to work with the schools that I could, it has always been my goal to get back there.”
Serving all six schools in the Milford School District, this year’s three School Resource Officers will be a critical part of implementing the new comprehensive emergency plans, that are mandated for all public schools by the State of Delaware. Masten believes that this position is an opportunity for the Milford Police Department to have a positive impact on the lives of students, increasing the chances that they will have a continued relationship with the police after graduation.
“It allows us to get to know the kids in our community and for them to get to know us,” commented Masten. “It also allows the students to see police officers in another light. We typically show up in emergency situations in the community but in the schools we can be proactive in creating that positive relationship.”
An evolving challenge that the School Resource Officers, teachers and parents continue to face at this level is the effect that social media is having on the interaction between students. Officer Masten states that almost every situation now has something to do with social media including cyberbullying. Phone apps that ensure confidentiality of users have also made it more difficult to trace individuals that post unwarranted photos and texts. School Resource Officers have had to quickly learn new technology and an entirely new lexicon to meet the online challenges. Their approach includes utilizing students that are proactive in keeping themselves and other students safe.
“We have to be proactive with social media and we are continually catching up to the newest app or social media trends,” stated Masten. “The information mainly comes from the kids, they will let you know what is happening.” SRO Masten encourages parents to be engaged with their children, not only monitoring their internet use but also educating them on social media influences.
As the school year starts up once again, officer Masten and the entire Milford Police Department continue to remind drivers to be cautious as there will be buses making numerous stops along with children walking to and from school. Masten states that there will be additional police presence, in addition to the district’s School Resource Officers, around the area schools and bus stops observing traffic. The department reminds motorists that under Delaware law it is illegal to pass a stopped bus and to text while driving. If parents have any questions for any of the three resource officers they are encouraged to call the main phone number of any of the six schools in the district and ask for the School Resource Officer.
“I am looking forward to seeing the kids get back and to begin interacting with them,” said Masten. “You get to build some really nice relationships with students and teachers that you wouldn’t get to while out on patrol.”