Sergeant Mayfield in his office. Photo by Ben Tignor

“To protect and to serve” is a motto adopted by countless police departments across the nation. Nowhere else in law enforcement is this mantra so pertinent as in the role of a student resource officer. Student resource officers, or SROs, are critical resources for the security of public schools across the nation. The role is not just one of law enforcement, but of community representation and personal relationships. In Carrboro-Chapel Hill, we have an officer in every middle and high school, but our elementary schools lack the same protection.

In the past few months, the district has been deliberating over the decision of whether or not to implement SRO positions in our elementary schools.

The N.C. Special Committee on School Shootings–formed as a result of the recent wave of highly publicized school shootings in the US–is making the decision. Through the consultation of the CHCCS community and relevant organizations, the committee created and presented a report on the issue to Governor Roy Cooper in February. Months later, the decision is still up in the air.

“We’re a vital resource, not only for mentorship, but to have programs put in place, even for younger children, to get to know us and see us in a different light,” said Sargeant Mayfield, Carrboro High School’s own SRO.

It’s not unusual for districts to not place SROs in their elementary schools. Often times it’s simply not practical or feasible, especially in smaller districts.

“It does come down to a matter of resources and money. It’s a lot of money,” said Mayfield.

It can also be difficult to find the right person for the job.

“You don’t want a rookie police officer,” said Mayfield. “You want a veteran officer. Somebody that can make split-second decisions based on policy and law and the school.”

All of that can be hard to come by, especially considering that police departments are often hard-pressed to find new qualified hires in the first place.

“You need to have a personality that’s going to fit well in a school,” said Mayfield. To serve in an SRO position demands a completely separate set of soft skills–and even more so in an elementary setting.

“It’s even bigger. Now you’re going through the halls with the little tykes, trying to high five and fist bump them. You want to be that positive role model. You can’t just come in there and ‘lay down the law.’ That’s not what we do,” said Mayfield. “I’m not just an enforcer here. That’s not what I want to do. I’m here for you guys.”

Governor Cooper has yet to respond to the Special Committee report, and make a concrete decision.