Wayne Wilhoit will be retiring as Chuckey-Doak High School’s school resource officer later this month.
Wilhoit has been the SRO at the high school for 10 years. The school has been a part of his life for much longer, though, as he is an alumnus of Chuckey-Doak, class of 1980.
He was one of the original four Greene County law enforcement officers who became school resource officers in Greene County schools. When the school systems first brought in professional law enforcement, Wilhoit had to split his time between the Chuckey-Doak high school, elementary and middle school.
“Now that we have an SRO at every school,” Wilhoit said, “it sure simplifies things and makes things more secure and safe at the schools.”
Five years into being SRO at Chuckey-Doak High School, Wilhoit became a K-9 officer when he got his bomb detection dog, Boomer. Wilhoit said the sheriff’s department didn’t want to have an absence in the SRO position at such a large school so another SRO officer was assigned to the high school for when Wilhoit is called out to help with K-9 needs. Within the last year, Wilhoit got an additional K-9, Ruger, which is trained in cadaver detection.
Prior to his time as an SRO, Wilhoit retired from the U.S. Army where he was a criminal investigator, then he worked as a police officer in Honolulu, Hawaii. After his time there, Wilhoit returned home to Tennessee and worked at the Greene County jail for six months. Shortly thereafter, he was asked by the sheriff at the time, Pat Hankins, to participate in the SRO program. Wilhoit said Hankins believed he would fit well in the position. Wilhoit was enthusiastic about joining.
Before Wilhoit arrived at Chuckey-Doak, the schools did not have a P.O.S.T (Peace Officer Standard Training) certified law enforcement officer. The SRO program has since grown in number in Greene County over Wilhoit’s time at Chuckey-Doak. In concurrence to this, SROs have had to obtain more certifications such as in the L.E.A.D. “Too Good For Drugs” curriculum and the Eddie Eagle gun safety instruction. Wilhoit has been through it all.
He has also been through a change in how students behave. Wilhoit spoke to the change in how student behavior has developed into more digital altercations recently.
“In the old days, you might have a fist fight or an altercation like that,” Wilhoit said. “But now, with everything happening online, there is cyberbullying, so there is less physical altercations because it’s all done on social media, which causes a disruption to the learning process. I’ve seen the times change.”
Wilhoit said that student interaction has changed dramatically just over the 10 years he has been at Chuckey-Doak.
A key positive aspect to that tenure in Greene County Schools, Wilhoit said, was that he got to witness the development of students from kindergarten to high school. He said that seeing students go through and overcome the struggles they’ve had has been rewarding. In a way, Wilhoit has been a part of student development not just in the classroom but as individuals.
He noted a particular example that meant a lot to him. Wilhoit had dealt with a student who had been in trouble over a schedule II drug issue in middle school. Then years later, Wilhoit was filling in for a SRO at North Greene High School when the same student hugged and thanked him for disciplining them all those years ago. Wilhoit noted the key part to this connection with the student was that he provided mentorship to her instead of strictly dealing with her as a law enforcement officer.
Wilhoit will be staying on part time for the county as a K-9 officer. Dogs like Wilhoit’s that are trained in bomb and cadaver detection are a rare and therefore valuable asset to this county and surrounding local communities. Just last weekend, he went with Boomer to the NASCAR race in Bristol to patrol the facility.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Department retirement structure, said Wilhoit, is one where deputies retire when they turn 60. Even though Wilhoit is retiring from the department as a full time SRO, he still has interest in being a school resource officer elsewhere. He has accepted the school resource officer position for Towering Oaks Christian School on Buckingham road. This will be in addition to his part-time work with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.
Wilhoit says he still has a lot to give and wants to continue helping to keep schools safe and secure.
On Tuesday, he was presented with the employee of the month award for the second time during his time at Chuckey-Doak.