York City District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. addresses a packed room at a York City School District school board meeting before giving the oath of office to
York City District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. addresses a packed room at a York City School District school board meeting before giving the oath of office to four new district police officers. (Erin James)

Don't ever accuse the York City School District's new police chief of lacking a soft side.

The crowded room went silent as Michael Muldrow prepared to speak Wednesday, moments after he and three colleagues took the oath of office.

Muldrow immediately choked up.

"It's a little hard to do because my whole life is in this room," he said, looking out into the faces of folks gathered at a school board meeting.

Indeed, many fellow police officers from nearby departments attended the meeting to witness history in the making.

Muldrow said his family, former partners, mentors and his best friend were there. Someone handed him a tissue.

"There are people in this room who have saved my life," he said.

Wednesday's ceremony made it official. The city school district has its own police department, staffed with former security guards. Many, including Muldrow, came to the district with law-enforcement backgrounds, and all underwent more training before assuming their newest role.

In an effort to improve district security -- and the district's image -- the school board voted in December to create the police department.

The plan was not without controversy, as some worried about the prospect of more weapons being introduced into the school environment.

Muldrow told the board Wednesday that the officers are "willing to give our lives for students, staff and families."

The district's officers will carry pepper spray and Tasers. The district will also continue the services of two York City Police officers who patrol school grounds during the academic year.

Muldrow's comments followed those of York City District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr., who performed the swearing-in ceremony.

Haskell said he believes Muldrow's compassionate and creative assets will serve the district well.

"I couldn't think of a better guy to lead this department than Mike," the judge said. "I'm so thrilled to swear him in."

-- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.