BURLINGTON, N.C. — They’re often one of the first people you see when stepping into school. They keep you safe and for many children, are the first interactions they’ll have with law enforcement.
Just because kids aren’t in school doesn’t mean school resource officers don’t have a job to do.
Like everyone else, SROs have had to adapt. Depending on the district, some are still working in schools. Others are out in the community making an effort to reach students while they’re at home.
“A lot of people look at it as ‘law enforcement is out here to get me.’ No we’re not out here to get you, we’re just trying to look after the well-being of our kids in our community,” said Lt. Mark Yancey with the Burlington Police Department.
Finding ways to connect with children and keep them out of trouble when face-to-face interaction is difficult.
“That’s been a little bit of a challenge for us as far as us being as proactive toward that effort as we want to be,” said Capt. Brian Hall with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
A challenge that Yancey, who oversees BPD’s six SROs, says has taken some getting used to.
“Periodically they walk through the schools. Just as a presence of security more than anything and then periodically we help them try to find kids that haven’t logged in,” Yancey said.
For Hall, reaching out can be as simple as showing up to where the sheriff’s 14 SROs are needed most — out in the community.
“We’ve tried to put them in locations where they would have the most contact with the students they would normally encounter at school. Either by assigning them to patrol divisions in the area where their schools are located, some of our guys we’ve had to put in the court bailiff’s position so we have them work the juvenile courts, just to maintain those connections,” Hall said.
It’s not always an easy job as the pandemic has created more tension on already stressed-out families.
“Parents can get frustrated and sometimes hostile,” Yancey said.
“A lot of our SRO’s have reached out through the guidance counselors to get in touch with some of the students that they know that have had troubles in the past so that we can maintain contact,” Hall said.
While they’re no longer the first faces you’ll see when strolling into school, Hall and Yancey tell FOX8 SROs are actively checking in on their students and are excited to see them when they return to class.
“We are anxious to get back to school. We obviously want it to be done safely. Interacting with these kids is why we do what we do and we’re eager to get back to that work,” Hall said.
“It’s about building relationships. People like to know each other and so it’s a struggle but we make some decent relationships,” Yancey said.