In selecting Carroll County’s first School Resource Officer (SRO) for its elementary schools, Sheriff J.B. Gardner would have been hard pressed to find a better candidate than Gator King.
King, who begins his duties as SRO for the county’s elementary schools Aug. 8, enters the position with 30 years of experience as a state trooper in South Carolina. He’s also spent more than five years in the school system with Family Preservation working with at-risk kids in Carroll County.
“It’s hard to find somebody with that law enforcement experience plus the counseling experience. That is why we were interested in him. He has a lot of law enforcement experience, but I was just as interested in his last five years working as a counselor,” Gardner said. “He was with Family Preservation the last five years and now he will be working with some of the same kids.”
Gardner said King will spend his time rotating between Carroll County’s seven elementary schools. His office will be based out of the Carroll County RAE Center.
“What the Sheriff intends to do with my counseling background as well as my law enforcement background is take a proactive approach. Most times it is a reactive approach in the schools, but we are trying to establish that relationship at a younger age so we can build a rapport with these young kids and police officers,” King said. “I’ll be going to all the elementary schools, so it is a floating position. If they ever need me at the middle school or high school, I will float there as well, but this position is primarily for Kindergarten to middle school.”
King’s law enforcement career began in the summer of 1973 as a South Carolina State Trooper assigned to the Myrtle Beach area. He worked that beat for five years before transferring to the “Low Country” area of the Palmetto State, where he spent the next 25 years before retiring as a state trooper in 2003.
Shortly after retiring, he made a stop in Carroll County that altered his life for much of the last decade.
“We just came through the area after I retired and went to a football game. The people were so nice to us and we loved it so much we decided to move here,” King said. “We didn’t know a soul, but we sold our house in South Carolina and moved here.”
After moving to Carroll, King spent his first two years here working as a substitute teacher. For the past five years, he has been working with Family Preservation. He has worked primarily with boys during that time at Woodlawn School and Carroll County Intermediate.
“I’m going to miss Family Preservation. I loved working with them and I feel like the training I got with them along with my law enforcement experience will greatly benefit me,” King said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with the people of Carroll County, especially the kids. What I am going to do is develop that rapport that needs to be there between kids and law enforcement. In my days as a trooper, I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone tell a child, ‘If you don’t sit down and be quiet, that man is going to lock you up.’ I want to change that perception. I want to be someone the kids can feel comfortable talking to about anything.”
Before the Carroll County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the position in June, Supervisor Bob Martin said the elementary school SRO officer would help mentor kids and reach them at an earlier age.
“The School Resource Officer program has been a really positive thing,” Martin said in June. “It’s not to get the kids in trouble, it’s keeping the kids out of trouble, advising them and being a friend.”