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School resource officers wear many hats

  • 11 January 2019
  • Author: Dan McNiel
  • Number of views: 2217
School resource officers wear many hats

The beat of Marlboro County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers Patrick Legette and Ross Childers involves patrolling and forming bonds.
But instead of patrolling the back roads of the county, their time is spent inside classrooms, hallways, and cafeterias of Blenheim and Wallace Elementary Middle Schools.
As school resource officers, their priority is keeping peace at their schools -- Legette at BEMS and Childers at WEMS.
It could mean fist bumping students as they head to lunch or joining them in a basketball game during P.E. Both Legette and Childers said they are law-related educators and counselors and to some, surrogate parents.
"We are there to show that while we have a badge on, we are human too," Legette said. "We try to humanize us as police officers especially to kids." 
Childers tries to incorporate the students into his routine of making sure the school is secure. One day, he noticed the children in line preparing to go to art class. He got in line with them and walked single file with them.
"They thought it was the most hilarious thing," he said. "I did it to bond with the kids and to have fun with them. I was doing this as I was doing my duties."
Both talked about what separates regular SROs from great SROs. 
A regular SRO will know the kids from a facial standpoint, he said.
"We try to be great SROs because, in this job, you have to know your kids," Legette said. "You have to know their behaviors, their patterns and what ticks for each child."
Childers has nicknames for many of the students at WEMS.
A lot of times when he sees students, he will give them a fist bump. 
"I fist bumped this one kid one day and noted he had a big fist," Childers said. "I told him 'I am going to start calling you heavy hands or double h.' The student likes it. One kid, I see a lot smiles a lot. I call him smiley. They love it. They enjoy it."
SROs are law enforcement officers who are responsible for and trained in law enforcement-related student counseling, conflict resolution, and crime prevention. However, SROs are not involved in student discipline for school rules violations, unless criminal charges are involved. 
Most SROs in the state have a joint contract with the school district and law enforcement agency. Law enforcement must be SRO certified through the SC Criminal Justice Academy. This will lay down the ground rules of what an SRO is. 
"But you are going to learn how to police your school through experience," Legette said.
Childers said once an officer is an SRO, they can take classes. A few weeks ago, he took a class on social media and sexting. 
Childers joined the Marlboro County Sheriff's Office in February of 2016 while Legette has been in law enforcement for seven years. He came to the Sheriff's Office for this unit in December of 2017.
"We do things beyond the realm of just being there for security purposes each and every day," Legette said. "Sometimes we are the only father figure that they see and the only males they see." 
With WEMS and BEMS having hundreds of students, Childers and Legette admitted they don't know the names of all students.
"But if we are sitting inside a classroom, we could tell you things just about every child in the room," Legette said. "We know our children."
Both attend the extracurricular activities after school and on weekends.
During Hurricane Florence, when the school district was closed for nine days, both worked the American Red Cross Shelter at BEMS.  
Childers said their responsibility was the Blenheim school shelter.  Legette covered 6 a.m-6 p.m. shift while Childers worked 6 p.m. -6 a.m.
"We worked a few 24-hour shifts," Legette said. "There was a three-day stretch when either of us couldn't get home. It was an adventure."

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