Strategy: School Resource Officers
Strategy Security or police presence at schools helps to reduce opportunities for unwitnessed crimes. The presence of school resource . . .
Security or police presence at schools helps to reduce opportunities for unwitnessed crimes. The presence of school resource police or security officers reduces fear of crime and violence among students, faculty, and staff.
Crime Problem Addressed
School resource officers address the gamut of crime and drug activity that occur in schools. Properly trained and integrated into the school administration, these officers can be viewed as an asset and resource to the school and not simply a disciplinary force to "catch" student criminals and delinquents.
Security officers, police officers (often youth or gang specialists), and school counselors trained in security are assigned to patrol school buildings during school hours, to develop positive relationships with students and staff, to recognize and respond to security threats on campus, and to deter crime through their visible presence in the school and at school-sponsored activities. The officers may also sponsor or lead specific educational (drug prevention, conflict management) or recreational activities on campus as a means of building positive relationships with students. Some schools have established mentoring programs, pairing school resource officers with students who have discipline problems.
Administrators, teachers, and staff usually encourage the presence of law enforcement officers or security personnel in a school, believing that their presence helps protect all who use the building from crime and violence. Parents aware of the program usually support it fully and can be powerful advocates for funding to cover the costs of assigning law enforcement personnel to the school.
Administrators in some school districts do not want security personnel or police officers in their school, fearing that the school atmosphere will appear less open and more concerned about crime. Many districts have difficulty finding funds to support assignment of law enforcement personnel and may be concerned that security funds divert funding from educational programs. Supplemental funds from the school district or law enforcement agency can remedy this situation. In addition, some principals may be reluctant to turn over some element of disciplinary control, even to trained police officers. Partnerships among school officials and police in planning the roles and responsibilities of officers can help address such concerns.
Signs of Success
The National Association of School Resource Officers advocates placement of law enforcement officials in schools on a full-time basis to supplement security and prevention education provided by school staff. The association notes that this approach has been successful in thousands of communities across the country, helping to reduce violence, improving law enforcement-school relations, and enhancing positive images of law enforcement among students and staff. The association offers advice as well as pertinent publications and other materials to schools looking to establish such programs.
Applying the Strategy
The Arlington, Texas, comprehensive crime and violence prevention plan, developed in 1993, called for 10 additional school resource officers for the city's schools. The officers have been hired and assigned, further enhancing security at the schools and fostering positive Partnerships among officers, students, and school staff. The Montgomery, Alabama, Public School District now assigns security officers to every high school and junior high school in the area. In the Phoenix, Arizona, School District, two police officers are assigned to each of several high schools. During the summer months, the officers are reassigned to gang prevention programs.