Absence of SRO didn’t endanger Mayo, chief says
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
No school resource officer was on duty April 27 when shots were fired near Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology, but at no point were students in any danger, Darlington Police Chief Kelvin Washington assured parents.
Mayo was briefly locked down after reports of shots being fired in the area about 2:30 p.m. Police said people in a car in the area of Edwards Avenue and Chestnut Street, about a block and a half from the school, were shooting at people in another car.
No one was reported injured and no arrests were immediately made.
Mayo normally has a school resource officer on duty, supplied by the Darlington Police Department, but an SRO was not on duty that day because of staffing problems, Washington said in a news conference Friday.
“The children at that school at no point were ever in (danger of) any harm,” Washington said. “In fact, when this call came out, there was an officer about half a block away from the school.”
“We wanted to reassure the parents and the members of the Darlington community that school, as well as all of our schools, are safe, and the children are safe,” Washington said. “ … We want to make sure we clear the air on that. At no point during that incident was the school in danger. At no point during that incident were the children in danger of any harm.”
Asked if anything did not get done as it should have been because there was no SRO that day, Washington said no. “Every single thing that was supposed to be done was done, and the same things would have occurred had an SRO been there.”
He said that if the department is unable to have an SRO on duty as usual, the other officers know that, and they keep an eye out for that school. He said that’s why an officer was less than a block from Mayo when the “shots fired” call went out.
Typically, Mayo is a trouble-free school, Washington said. It’s a magnet school, and “the students at Mayo are the high academic achievers within the Darlington County School District. Those are kids that are not troublemakers. You’re not going to have problems over at that school.”
Washington said staffing problems are an issue for virtually every law-enforcement agency in the country. “Right here in South Carolina, we have anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 police vacancies,” he said. The reasons usually come down to high risk and relatively low pay.
The chief said he and his staff were working to make sure “we have a presence” at Mayo for the rest of the school year.
Washington said the Darlington Police Department has 29 officer positions. “Right now, we’ve got two vacancies. But we’ve got quite a number of people (out to varying degrees) … I’ve got one that’s on medical leave. I’ve got one that’s on military leave. I’ve got about three or four, I think, in training or they have not been in the (state police) academy. I have one that just graduated from the academy today. We’ve got a couple of others that are in training, but they’re new officers.”
“That’s about 20 percent of our staff that’s not quite ready yet to be out there enforcing the law,” he said.