A Defining Role
When an employee first begins a new job, they are often told they have big shoes to fill by coworkers fondly remembering those who came before. However, that hasn’t been the case for new State School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox (pictured above). Instead, he has been tasked not with filling shoes but with creating the mold for those who follow.
The State School Security Marshal Office was established with the passage of the School Security and Resiliency Act. According to Wilcox, the office is responsible for developing a school-security risk assessment tool and working directly with compliance officers who will assess the safety of Kentucky public schools.
And while that seems like an undertaking, Wilcox isn’t coming into the role without skin in the game. At the start of his law enforcement career, Wilcox spent six years serving as a school resource officer for Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Taking the job in 1999, Wilcox embraced the role in an era of rampant fear following the tragic massacre at Columbine High School.
“(Being an SRO at that time) was a monumental task in many ways,” said Wilcox. “We didn’t have any roadmaps to follow of what police officers were supposed to do in schools...Everyone knew it was essential to have police officers in (there), but we didn’t know how it was going to play out.”
As an SRO, Wilcox worked with five different schools, including three elementary schools, one high school and a middle school. Each had staff supportive of the officer’s presence.
“It turned out to be a great relationship between law enforcement and the schools, because we were utilized in so many ways. We learned from them, and they learned from us,” he said. “Law enforcement and education are all on the same track, protecting and educating youth ... We all are heading in the right direction. We all have the same goals, but we speak different languages.”
Now, having a foot in both worlds, Wilcox feels he can understand both perspectives fluently.
After developing his love of teaching while serving in schools, Wilcox joined the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training as a driving instructor in 2004. He later spent time in the Firearms and Coordination sections and as the supervisor of Instructional Design before being offered his newest title.
In addition to his professional background, Wilcox’s wife Angie’s profession as an educator and school counselor has given him unique insight into the needs of schoolchildren. Wilcox is also the father of two young daughters, Alexandria and Addison, ages 12 and 9.
“Having children in the school system, I’m looking at (safety) from a law enforcement perspective, but also as a dad,” said Wilcox. “I don’t want to let any parent down. Anyone in this position, I would want them to feel the same way I do when I send my kids, and my wife, to school. Folks in the state of Kentucky have the same love for their family that I do for mine. My job is immense to make sure we don’t break that trust.”