In times of racial, community unrest with police, schools need quality School Resource Officer (SRO) police programs more than ever

Posted by on June 4, 2020

As communities across the nation grapple with race and civil unrest with their police, children and police need to come together to collaboratively understand one another, their relationships, and their communities. There is no better form of true community policing than properly designed and implemented School Resource Officer (SRO) school-based policing programs.

School boards, administrators abruptly cut school-police programs – and risk safety, liability

In only a few days following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, we have seen a disturbing and abrupt move by some school boards and superintendents to remove SRO programs from their schools:

At first glance, one has to wonder how political officials and top school administrators so abruptly decided, at no coincidence just days after civil unrest around the nation following George Floyd’s death, to swiftly remove police from schools.  Such knee-jerk actions reek of political more than professional considerations.

School leaders making opportunistic school safety policy changes based upon political and imagery considerations, rather than on school safety best practices, could put the safety of students and school staff in future jeopardy — and put themselves in a position of greater liability risk, as well.

Best practice models, MOUs lead to positive SRO/school-police programs

The best practice for designing SRO programs is to focus their functions on the “Triad Model” consisting of law enforcement, student counseling, and law-related education.

Best practices also address issues including:

  • Selecting the right officer for a school setting
  • Training administrators and school-based police on best practices for police in school contexts
  • Distinguishing the roles of police from school administrators handing discipline
  • Jointly evaluating the officer,

and more.  These issues should be documented in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between school leaders and police departments.

If political officials in a school community believe there are problems with their SRO/school-based police program, the first place to start would be to examine their MOU:

  • Is there a current MOU between school and police officials regarding the SRO program?
  • Does it define the best practices listed above?
  • What specific incidents have occurred to warrant eliminating the program?
  • Were these incidents the result of a poor or non-existent MOU? Poor implementation of the program?
  • Were there specific incidents that were resolvable as a normal part of program management?

Oftentimes when we find questionable arrests and other actions by school-based officers, it is because school administrators have deferred their authority, roles, and tasks to the school officer to do in their place.  The absence of MOUs, or the failure to follow existing MOUs, also can come into play.

SRO/school-police are true community policing programs

SROs and school-law enforcement relationships are the first-line of prevention, not punitive or prison-like.  Kids and police develop positive relationships.  Students share with police when they are victimized in their homes with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other victimization.  Students tell SROs about plots for school shootings, kids who are threatening self-harm (suicide), and kids who bring weapons to school.  Students and school administrators turn to officers to help them address bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, and more.

To eliminate a School Resource Officer (SRO) program for political or philosophical reasons driven by adult agendas, without first examining the merits of a SRO program and making sure that the program is designed using best practices, is a huge mistake. School-based policing/SRO programs, when properly implemented, are one of the first and best models of true community policing.

If school, police, and elected leaders truly want to put racial and community strife on the right track for recovery, SRO programs offer one of the greatest glimmers of hope for doing so.

Ken Trump is the President of National School Safety and Security Services

National School Safety and Security Services

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