School Resource Officers (SROs) and School Police Departments

Posted by on February 16, 2010

Memphis Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Kriner Cash, wants it.  Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin is strongly against it.  The Memphis Mayor, A C Wharton, is now against it.

State legislators are trying to determine whether or not to make it legal.

So what is the “it” that has these school and city leaders in Memphis in a stir?

Answer: The legal authority for the Memphis school district to create its own in-house school police department.

Memphis news outlets have been covering this story for months:

  1. Mayor against school police; Wharton won’t back plan for MCS-led force
  2. Cash renews call for campus ‘peace force’  Ministers supportive of proposal for schools to handle police enforcement, guidance
  3. Police, MCS seek own plan.  Each wants to lead push for officers in city schools

Memphis is not alone in its struggle with issues related to police in schools.  In New York, NYC students sued the New York Police Department  NYPD, claiming harassment and that police in schools are arresting too many students.

School policing questions are not only an issue in large urban districts.  In Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the Greencastle Borough Council turned down a state grant to fund an officer in the schools (known as School Resource Officers). 

  • What are the pros and cons of creating an in-house school police department operated by the school district?
  • What criteria should be considered when hiring or selecting police officers to work in schools?
  • What is the difference between successful SRO programs or school police departments, and ones which fail?

Join us for a three-part series starting Wednesday of this week, where we will take  a closer look at SROs, school police departments, and related issues.  Interviews will include experts in school-based policing models, school district leaders who have overseen school police departments, and experts in training for school-based police officers. 

Do you have a SRO program or school police department in your schools?  What works well? What, if anything, needs improvement?

Ken Trump

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