Four Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies who recently completed the Basic School Resource Officer curriculum had a familiar teacher.
Patrol deputies W.E. Carawan and A.L. Owen, Civil Deputy T.L. Maclelland and Investigator N.R. Wooten completed the N.C. Justice Academy training under the close eye of co-worker Corp. Kelly Nolan, a school resource officer for the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office and one of a handful of certified SRO instructors in northeastern North Carolina.
The three deputies and investigator were the first class of sheriff’s staffers to receive the weeklong SRO training Sheriff Tommy Wooten hopes all sworn deputies will eventually get.
“We are going to have a class every so often until we get the entire Sheriff’s Office through,” Wooten said.
The Sheriff’s Department has six SROs based at individual schools and a seventh that patrols the elementary schools. Wooten, however, wants the entire department, including himself, trained so that deputies are familiar with the work an SRO does on school campuses, especially if a deputy needs to fill in for a regular SRO.
“There are different laws that you have to learn in a school,” Wooten said. “There are rights a school resource officer would have on campus that a regular deputy would not have — such as being able to search students on campus.”
He said the training will help sheriff’s staff “learn what role a school resource officer plays in a school.”
Despite schools being closed to in-person instruction for most students because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wooten said the seven SROs are still working at their assigned schools. That’s because teachers are conducting remote learning from their classrooms and some students, including special needs children, are receiving in-person instruction.
“Right now, they are still going to their respective schools because we have staff and faculty at the schools,” Wooten said. “We are still obligated by contract to be at the schools.”
When schools are not in session, like during summer break, SROs perform a variety of duties for the department, including filling patrol duties when needed and running special events like Pack the Patrol Car.
“Their main function when school is closed is to run our community involvement program,” Wooten said. “Last year, we did 65 special events in which the school resource officers were involved in about 98 percent of those.”
Wooten would like to have a deputy based at every school. Northeastern High School, Pasquotank High School, Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies, H.L. Trigg Community School, Elizabeth City Middle School and River Road Middle School all have SROs. NEAAAT reimburses the county for the cost of its SRO.
The Sheriff’s Department has the seventh SRO patrol the seven elementary schools in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools.
Placing an SRO at a school costs around $108,000, which includes the officer’s first-year salary and benefits, equipment and vehicle. The reoccurring cost is around $50,000 annually.
Last October, Wooten secured grant money to add the seventh SRO to the department.
“My ultimate dream is to have a school resource officer in every one of our public schools,” Wooten said.