The name alone is enough to bring shivers down your spine.
If you are coming down Milestone Road at a fast clip or entering the James Coffin Rotary without a valid inspection sticker, the last thing you want to see is Bates.
We all know his hot spots: the Lola Burger parking lot; Milestone Road and rotary; the intersection of Surfside Road and South Shore Road. However, Bates moves around the island like a cat with stealth-like precision. How can one man be in so many places at once?
The traditional French and electric blue Massachusetts State Police cruiser is assigned specifically to Sergeant Kevin Bates. Vehicle #251 is fully outfitted and “marked” for the 22-year MSP veteran, but let’s be honest, by the time you see the tinted glass, you’ve already pumped the brakes as if you did something wrong.
Tags on the license plate: check.
Inspection sticker only 8 months old: check.
Five mph under the posted speed limit: check.
Traveling well within the marked lanes: check.
No outstanding warrants: check
But, when you spot that cruiser, why do you feel like you just robbed the main branch of the Pacific National Bank and still have the loot in the back seat? You know you did nothing wrong, but Bates knows you did.
Can the myth - the legend – and the reputation precede one so much so that it actually results in motorists hyper-ventilating into thinking they’re guilty when they see Bates smartly tucked off Fairgrounds Road ready to pounce on the guilty pray?
If your answer is yes, then I am not so sure you know Sergeant Bates.
Born in Beverly, Mass., but growing up in Andover, Kevin Bates attend the highly competitive Phillips Academy before going to Tufts University where he graduated in 1986.
“At Phillips, I was pretty much a square peg in a round hole. At Tufts, I felt the pressure to succeed”, said Bates. However, it was in the pool where he thrived as a competitive swimmer at both locations that might have been the seed that got Bates to Nantucket.
“After graduating from Tufts, I felt the pressure to work in Boston on State Street. Public service was certainly not an option at that time. It did not take me long to realize I hated being behind a desk; so within a matter of a few months, I had one foot out the window,” said Bates.
He added “I had several friends from the Tufts swim team that were lifeguards on Nantucket during the summer. They convinced me to apply for a position, and almost overnight, I am working as a lifeguard for the Public Works Department under Bud Clute then under George Rezendes in the Marine Department.”
After a few years, Bates became the supervisor of the lifeguards and he handled most of the administrative duties including “beach calls” in the morning at the Fire Department.
Bates explained, “I became good friends with Joe Rezendes who was the Deputy Chief and he convinced me to become a volunteer fireman. Soon thereafter, Joe advised me of an opening as a full-time firefighter so I decided to apply. I took an accelerated EMT course at Northeastern - got my certification - and became a full time NFD member in ’88.”
Over the next 10 years, firefighter Bates fought fires, bought some land, built a house and became a valuable member of the Nantucket community. “I loved the NFD but I was growing antsy. Jimmy Ellis would always stop by the firehouse and he told me about the upcoming State Police exam. I decided to take it. I passed the exam and the next thing you know, I am spending six months at the State Police Academy in New Braintree, Mass. under incredibly stressful conditions”.
In the Massachusetts State Policy hierarchy, it is hard to pick your ideal assignment especially right out of the gate. Trooper Bates was initially posted to South Yarmouth while Jeff Gonsalves, Jimmy Ellis and Jack Moran were manning the Nantucket State Police barracks.
“It was a combination of several factors that led me to my present position,” said Bates. “For example, there was a change in command at the state level. Jimmy Ellis retired. After being promoted to lieutenant, Jack Moran was posted to Norwell - then, he retired. After working as a Trooper on Nantucket for several years, the torch was passed from Jimmy to Jack then to me. I was extremely grateful to be able to follow in their footsteps when I was assigned the command position as a sergeant”.
It was a bit of a roll of the dice for Bates but it worked out for everyone. While he has worked as a State Police Trooper on Nantucket for years, Bates has led the island barracks since 2019, and serves as a one-man band on Nantucket for most of the year, but with the full force of the State Police’s specialized, tactical or investigative units as resources at his disposal. But, if you think he spends all of his time writing traffic violations, you are wrong.
He’s got a full plate. Public safety, investigations, administrative responsibilities, State Forest, interaction with the Nantucket public schools, operations with the Secret Service and State Department, and yes, writing traffic violations.
"I don’t have 30 Troopers under my command and that’s both a blessing and a curse. But what I do have is the opportunity to work with the NPD, NFD, airport fire and security, Coast Guard, Sheriff’s Department, Environmental Police, public safety dispatchers... these people are all professionals. Since we bring something different to the table, we truly depend on one another.”
I tried my best to get some juicy details about any recent traffic stops but Bates would not bite. I asked about any rivalries between police, fire and state police but got nothing. How about some details on a highly publicized event? “No comment.” I even tried to get Bates to open up about his recent interest in pickle ball and paddle tennis and the best I got was: “I am equally anemic at both.”
I unsuccessfully tried to peel this onion and Bates summed it up best: “I would rather read about someone else than read about me”.
Was I disappointed?
Bates did not change but I did. When I first met with Sergeant Bates, I made sure I parked my truck in the designated area. I subconsciously tucked in my shirt. I took a quick look in the rear-view mirror to make sure my hat was on straight before venturing into his office on North Liberty Street. However, the more time I spent with Bates, the more impressed I was with his commitment to the job as the lone, year-round State Police representative on call 24/7. I was far more at ease. And when he finished up by saying, “I have grown very fond of my job and I would like to keep it,” I knew he meant it.
Unfortunately, most of us will only get to meet Sergeant Bates in an uncomfortable, professional manner. No one likes to hear those four magic words: “License and registration, please”. Like so many men and women on this island who are involved with law enforcement, it is hard for us to separate the “Sergeant Bates” from the “Kevin Bates.”
Honestly, I can’t say if we will ever get to know Sergeant Bates much better. But given the opportunity like I had, I hope you get to know Kevin Bates better.