School resource officers are not just policemen patrolling the halls of schools — they are much more than that.
To Capt. William Kates, school resource officer captain with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, school resource officers have big shoes to fill.
“We’re the big brother, the big sister, we’re the parent, the social worker, the teacher — we’re everything,” Kates said.
School resource officers are responsible for enforcing the school rules, but Kates said students often form bonds with the officers. There are times when students are more willing to talk to a school resource officer about relationships, illegal drugs or weapons entering the school or illnesses rather than teachers or parents.
“A lot of times, the students will only come to the (school) resource officer,” Kates said. “For whatever reason, they see something in that officer that they feel more comfortable talking to. They feel more at ease and will tell them if someone is bringing in illegal substances or a weapon.”
Because of that, Kates said school resource officers must have a certain demeanor. They need to be patient and laid back because they are working with students.
“We need the best officers to be the school resource officers because we have to have a certain demeanor about us and understand we’re not working out on the streets,” Kates said.
Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce recently promoted to Kates to captain of the school resource officer division of the sheriff’s office. The SRO division has grown so much that it is now the second largest division at the sheriff’s office, second to patrol, Pierce said. Making the SRO program a separate division and promoting Kates to captain will allow for more efficiency with the new chain of command, Pierce said.
“By him being a part of the command staff, it just makes our operation more efficient,” Pierce said. “The SRO program is just a major part of our sheriff’s office because of its size and importance. I’m looking forward to him to continuing to supervise that division, but now he will make more decisions.”
Before his promotion to captain, Kates was a lieutenant within the SRO program, Pierce said. SInce 2006, Kates has worked his way through the ranks and was already supervising the SRO program when Pierce decided to promote him to captain.
“Kates has been with our SRO program for a number of years now,” Pierce said. “He served with the previous sheriff as an SRO, and of course when I became sheriff, our SRO program began to grow and he advanced in rank.
“I just felt like he was the person who had grown with the program, had good leadership abilities. He was just a perfect fit four our needs.”
As captain, Kates will oversee all 19 full-time and four part-time SROs. He will command four supervisors who oversee daily operations. With his promotion, Kates is now a member of the sheriff’s command staff, which includes the sheriff, major of enforcement, major of detention and six division captains.
Kates, a graduate of Goldsboro High School, first started his law enforcement career in the department of corrections in 1993, where he worked for nine years. During that time, he attended Basic Law Enforcement Training. After graduation, he served as an officer for the North Carolina State Capitol Police Department in Raleigh for three years. By 2006, he was hired as a school resource officer by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Kates said he enjoys working with the students and faculty as a school resource officer. He hopes to become a bridge between the community, parents and the school. If parents and students have concerns within the school or resource officers, he hopes to be a liaison between his officers, the sheriff and the school.