[This is the fifth installment of a series of articles to highlight the Bartlesville Public Schools’ School Resource Officers and raise community awareness regarding safety in our schools.]
Officer Michael Coates is one of six school resource officers (“SROs”) assigned to the Bartlesville Public Schools District (the “District”). As a reminder, the District is in the process of adding three additional SROs over the next three months to the six SROs already in place. The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation recently sat down with Officer Coates to learn more about his role within our schools.
Born in Vinita, Oklahoma, Officer Coates was primarily raised by his grandmother. From a young age, he watched his mom and aunt fall victim to domestic violence, perpetrated by various men in their lives. He remembers thinking, even as young as five or six years old, that he wanted to be a police officer to help others in domestic violence situations. He had a positive impression of the role police officers played in these instances – assisting his mom and aunt, and checking on him as a small child.
In 2014, Coates graduated from Vinita High School and started taking classes at Rogers State University, focusing on criminal justice. With a requirement that an individual be at least 21 years old to be a police officer, 18 year old Coates became a 911 dispatcher, working night shifts for the City of Vinita for three years. During that time, he often went on ridealongs with patrol officers. These experiences confirmed that he wanted to be a police officer.
In 2017, on the day he turned 21, Coates applied to be a police officer with the City of Vinita. He was hired immediately as a part-time officer while he continued working full time as an emergency dispatcher. He served as a reserve officer often as he could – regularly putting in the maximum number of hours. In 2018, he attended Council Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) and became a certified officer. A year later, Coates attended the police academy and transitioned to the full-time role. He was assigned to serve patrol on night shifts and kept that job with the City of Vinita’s police department for two years.
In 2020, Officer Coates was ready to learn the role sheriffs played in law enforcement. He was hired by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office to serve as a deputy sheriff. He was responsible for approximately 400 square miles, and due to the large area he covered, he would often need to drive over an hour to respond to calls. He would also regularly have to take calls without backup. It was a dangerous job. Based on those circumstances and his interest in having opportunities for advancement that come with a larger police department, he was excited to join Bartlesville Police Department (“BPD”) in 2021.
When Coates joined the BPD as a patrol officer, he was quickly exposed to the SRO world by Officer Terry Woods, Coates’ his friend and SRO at Bartlesville High School. Coates would occasionally assist Woods with issues at the high school. Coates realized he enjoyed working with the students and received compliments on how he interacted with them. When the BPD asked for officers interested in joining the SRO team, Coates submitted his letter of interest. He knew our schools needed more officers, and he felt that he could make a difference by developing positive relationships with kids.
In January 2023, as soon as the BPD was able to hire and train a new officer to fill Officer Coates’ role as a BPD patrol officer, Coates was assigned to Ranch Heights Elementary School. Coates immediately started determining what students needed most from him and how he could help the school. He recognized that although school safety was and continues to be his top priority, students are in need of positive role models and stable relationships.
Within a few weeks of joining the team at Ranch Heights, Officer Coates created a student-focused mentoring program called, “On Break with Officer Coates.” The tagline for the program is “protect-educate-mentor.” On a daily basis, Coates pulls students, who have a pattern of disruptive behavior, out of the classroom to talk one-on-one for about fifteen minutes. Coates and the students identify challenges the students are facing and talk through possible solutions. Then, Coates takes those students on rounds with him to make sure the doors to the school are locked and secure. After students return to their classrooms, teachers complete an evaluation form, letting Officer Coates know whether the students’ behavior has improved. Coates uses that feedback when he visits with the students the next day. Students who have positive evaluations for a week can earn a behavior badge.
Officer Coates prides himself on this proactive approach to building relationships with students. He is focused on mentoring and empowering students. He recognizes that despite being young, elementary kids can have big problems; and they need tools to work through them. Teachers, administrators, and students can already see the positive impacts from his efforts. Principal Chanda Myers shares, “Officer Coates has engaged students and staff from day one. His willingness to help where needed is refreshing.” She claims the best word to describe him is “present.” You can find him in the classrooms, the hallways, in the cafeteria, and even on the playground. Officer Coates is viewed as a celebrity at Ranch Heights. Students enjoy spending time with him, whether it is during an “On Break with Officer Coates” session, asking him questions about being a police officer, or playing basketball with him in the gym.
When school is not in session, Coates will occasionally serve as a patrol officer for the BPD. He also does graphic design work, serves as a reserve officer coordinator, a MILO instructor (teaching in a virtual simulation training environment for law enforcement), and helps Officer Woods with the Explorer Program for youth interested in law enforcement. If that was not enough to keep Officer Coates busy, he also works with Officer Woods to outfit police cars with the necessary emergency and safety equipment. Despite all of these responsibilities and interests, his greatest passion is spending time with his two year old daughter.
The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation is raising funds to support and sustain the District’s valuable SRO positions. To contribute to this fundraising effort, contact Blair Ellis, BPSF Executive Director at 918-336-8600, ext 3523 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting bpsfoundation.org/donate