BURLINGTON, N.C. — Building up today’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders is a challenge DeAnthony Brooks takes on every day.
“Not just football, but in sports in general,” Brooks said. “You learn work ethic, you learn dependability, you learn how to be trustworthy.”
The former Fayetteville State University football star coaches at Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington. When he’s not calling plays or critiquing passes, he’s strolling through the halls of Williams as a School Resource Officer (SRO).
“SRO has a negative stigma to it,” Brooks said. “You typically see older officers or people who are on their way out the door. You know some people questioned why I became an SRO as a young officer. You know, I aspire to work in narcotics and things like that but coming to the school has changed my life. It’s made me see things differently.”
Officer Brooks is one of five SROs in the Burlington Police Department working full-time in middle and high schools.
“I know how it was for me as a high schooler,” Brooks said. “I had an SRO who was amazing in Greensboro, and he ultimately influenced me to be a police officer. If I can create a change in my small world, you never know these kids’ interaction with police in the future or how they may receive them or their response to them.”
Brooks said building relationships with students is one of his top priorities. He even got the opportunity to host this year’s homecoming pep rally.
“I believe it bridges the gap,” Brooks said. “You know, some kids you never know what aspect they may have dealt with law enforcement. I’ve had kids who had catastrophic situations with their families, and I couldn’t believe they came to me and felt comfortable enough to talk about what they were going through with me. So, being able to see that lets me know what I’m doing is actually working and paying off.”
Junior tight ends Milton Turner and Sam Rhodes said Brooks built a sense of trust both on the field and in the classroom.
“Coach Brooks, when you first meet him, he can be intimidating because of his structure, but once you get to know him, he’s a fun guy, if you need anything,” Turner said. “I never thought I would get as close of a bond with law enforcement as I do with Coach Brooks.”
“If I ever have a problem, I can call 911, feel safe, and know that most law enforcement is like Coach Brooks and always out there to help others.”
Though fear of a disconnect with law enforcement continues to plague some communities, Brooks is calling on his brothers in blue to do what they can to bridge the gap.
“Go eat lunch with a kid or sit in the cafeteria,” Brooks said. “Go to the P.E., the gym, shoot basketball. The kids are our future, so you have the opportunity to build those relationships with the kids and make that positive impact. There’s no excuse.”
The Burlington Police Department said it hosts several community events throughout the year including Coffee with a Cop and Christmas shopping with officers in the hope to create a sense of transparency within the community.