Fayetteville police Capt. Robert Spatorico has done his share of patrol duties, investigations and overseeing what’s going on in the city in his 22-year career with the department.
Now that he’s worked his way through the ranks, he’s taken on a role that mixes business and fun.
Spatorico, 49, oversees the division that includes the Police Activities League and the Special Olympics.
The work, Saptorico said, is important and rewarding.
“The Police Activities League is a grass-roots community oriented policing platform. It’s getting police officers to interact with kids and families in a non-traditional police environment.”
The PAL program received its national charter in 2015.
“It’s traditionally referred to as the Police Athletic League, but we named it the Activity League because we feel that a lot of kids, though a lot of them like athletics, a lot don’t want to do sports. They want activities like arts and sciences.”
The program is operational year-round and, depending on the season, the number of participants, primarily ages 8-13, varies from between 40 to 100, Spatorico said. Many of the children who participate are considered at-risk, and one goal of the program is to teach them that the police are not the bad guys.
It’s done subtly, he said.
“I’ve coached baseball with the department for eight to 10 years now. Normally, I show up at practices for the first couple of weeks in sweatshirts and shorts,” Spatorico said.
By the time the officers show up in uniforms, the children have already formed a relationship with them.
“You build a relationship as a person, then they realize you’re a cop and it’s like, hey, you’re a regular guy.”
Spatorico also oversees the numerous fundraisers the department does year-round for the Special Olympics program that has its roots in law enforcement.
It began in 1981 when the Wichita, Kansas, Police Department raised $600 for the program by holding a 5k race, Spatorico said. Since then, law enforcement agencies across the world work to raise money. Last year, Spatorico said, law enforcement raised more than $55 million internationally.
The signature event is the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which Fayetteville police and other Cumberland County agencies take part in.
The commitment to Special Olympics doesn’t stop there, Spatorico said.
There’s an annual Polar Plunge, usually held in January or February, in which officers who are willing raise money by pledging to go into ice-cold waters.
Another is the Plane Pull Benefit in which five people, all law enforcement officers, form a team. They raise money for the entrance fee which goes to Special Olympics, Spatorico said. The objective is for the team to pull a 30,000-pound plane 25 feet from a dead start.
“It takes about eight and a half seconds,” Spatorico said.
“We’ve got some monsters that will come out and pull.”
This year, the department sent teams of detectives, supervisors and members of the Emergency Response Team. The detectives’ team placed second and the team of police women won their competition, Spatorico said.
Other fundraisers include a golf tournament and motorcycle ride.
Despite his involvement in so many projects, and his job, Spatorico finds time to spend with his family, which includes his wife and four children.
His oldest daughter works as dispatcher for the department. Another daughter is a senior at Jack Britt High School. His son is in middle school and plays football and baseball and another daughter plays soccer.
Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3568.