School Resource Officers

School Resource Officers, School Police, & School Security Officers

School Resource Officers / School Police

School Resource Officer (SRO) programs have been in schools since the 1960’s.  Although the placement of law enforcement officers in schools has grown tremendously over the past decade, the move to do so appears to have increased dramatically following the school shootings of the late 1990s. Does the presence of police in schools create an “armed camp” or a “prison-like” environment as some opponents claim?  When properly designed and implemented, absolutely not!

In fact, most SROs (and other school safety personnel) will tell you that they have prevented far more incidents from occurring than they have made actual arrests.  SROs typically focus their functions on the “Triad Model” consisting of law enforcement, student counseling, and law-related education.  To fully understand this aspect of school safety, SROs and school-law enforcement relationships must be viewed as the first-line of prevention, not as being punitive or prison-like.

Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of SRO programs by many representatives of academia, the media, elected officials, and others have resulted in misinformation and misrepresentation of the programs as being reactionary and punitive when in reality, they are actually very proactive and preventative when professionally implemented by school and law enforcement officials. SRO programs, when properly designed and implemented, can create a positive, meaningful school-law enforcement partnership. This does not mean that having school-based police officers/SROs will guarantee that there will not be a school shooting as many factors come into play in each unique school shooting incident.

Many SROs are law enforcement officers from local or county law enforcement agencies assigned to schools in cooperative agreements with education officials.  A number of school districts also have their own school police departments. These officers are typically full-time, in-house school officers with police powers who are employed directly by the school district rather than directly by a law enforcement agency outside of the school district.

SROs should be officers who voluntarily wish to work with children in schools.  School and law enforcement officials should be sure that SROs receive specialized training for working with children and in school settings.  SRO programs should include formal agreements between school districts and law enforcement agencies regarding officer selection, funding, training, supervision, evaluation, and associated issues.

School Security Programs

Another very common form of school security staffing is the in-house school security officer and/or district security coordinator or director.  The titles of the individuals at the school level tend to vary a great deal from those such as school security officer, school safety officer, campus supervisors, security aides, etc. Regardless of their title, many are typically responsible for campus supervision, enforcement of school rules, and related safety tasks.

In-house school security personnel, although sometimes commissioned with limited arrest authority depending upon jurisdiction, qualifications, and other issues, typically are civilian, non-police classified school support personnel without full police powers.  In many school systems, these officials are the backbone of school operations with respect to providing school safety support services, enhanced campus supervision, assistance with disruptive students, monitoring visitors, coordination with law enforcement officials, and a host of other functions geared toward improving and maintaining school safety.  Frequently the “unsung heroes” of many school systems, school security personnel are increasingly becoming a part of many of our nation’s school staffs.

For additional information

Contact Ken Trump