The school resource officer

03/30/2013  |  BY KEVIN QUINN
school security

School safety. Ever since the tragic shooting that occurred Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. where 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, those two words have never had so much meaning and sparked controversy around the country. The debates on how we keep our kids safe began that horrible night and have not ended yet. There are numerous ideas that people are coming up with regarding how to keep our schools safe and prevent another incident like the one in Connecticut.

One such idea is to have a School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to the school campus. An SRO is a fully sworn law enforcement officer from the local police or sheriff’s department that is assigned to a school on a full time basis. The SRO is not a security guard or even an extra hired police officer to “Stand guard” in the front of a school.

The school resource officer is an integral part of the school staff and administration team. The SRO works closely with the staff, parents and students to ensure a safe campus and school environment. SRO’s become a part of the school staff, getting to know everyone and everything on that campus like it is his own; and in a way it is.

School districts all over the nation have partnered with local law enforcement agencies to establish School Resource Officer Programs. The purpose of the SRO is to work diligently with stakeholders in the communities they serve to provide a safe environment for all students to learn.

The overall goal of the SRO is to build positive relationships with adolescents, which in turn reduces crime, drug abuse, and violence in their community. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) developed the SRO Triad concept. The Triad concept defines the SRO as having three primary roles: Law enforcement officer, teacher, and informal counselor. This is the difference in having an SRO or just a hired extra duty security officer.

As a law enforcement officer, the school community becomes the SRO’s “beat” and acts a liaison between the school and police community. They not only enforce state and city laws, but the SROs also provide campus security, intelligence and help change the attitudes young people have towards law enforcement. The SRO is also an immediate first responder for any and all critical incidents that are occurring on campus.

Having a police officer already on the campus can eliminate several minutes of response time when seconds count. If there is a critical incident that occurs on the school campus, in the time it would take someone to call 911, have the call transferred to a dispatcher, have the dispatcher send the call to a patrol officer and then the time it takes that officer to respond and then locate where on the campus the incident is, the SRO could already have the whole situation under control because they are already on the campus.

When a school has an SRO assigned to the campus, there is no delay in response time. The SRO also has a crucial part of the emergency response plan for the school. They work closely with the school administration in making the sure the plan is updated and drills are conducted on a regular basis.

Often times SROs are invited to be guest speakers in classrooms. SROs teach law related education to not only students, but to staff members, parents and other community stakeholders. SROs teach juveniles the importance of the justice system, respecting others and property, and career opportunities in criminal justice. The SRO as a guest speaker creates opportunities for law enforcement to connect with juveniles in a positive atmosphere. The presence of the SRO in the classroom helps young people develop trust and a better understanding of law enforcement. SROs also gain a greater appreciation of the invaluable role our educators play in our schools today when they themselves become the instructor to the young people they work with daily.

The third and final role of the SRO is that of an informal counselor and mentor. The ultimate goal of the SRO is to bridge the gap between themselves and juveniles by developing rapport. Once SROs establish themselves in their assigned school community, students become more comfortable with asking the SRO for advice and guidance on “teen-issues.” These issues may include teen dating violence, social network conflicts, parent/child conflicts, academic advice, and legal advice. The role of informal counselor allows SROs to make an impact on their students for the rest of their lives. 

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) is made up of thousands of law enforcement officers, school safety and educational personnel from every state in the nation and many foreign countries. The focus is to provide sound training for school resource officers and school personnel, allowing them to better perform their jobs. NASRO accomplishes this through its annual NASRO Conference and training courses held in various locations across the United States and in other countries.

NASRO continues to offer preventive strategies to enhance those protective factors, especially bonding to the family, school and community, which appear to foster the development of resiliency in young people who may be at risk for criminal activity, substance abuse or other problem behaviors.

The successful school resource officer program is a collaborative effort by certified law enforcement officers, educators, students, parents, and the community to offer law related educational programs in the schools in an effort to reduce crime, drug abuse, violence, and provide a safe school environment.

Kevin Quinn has been a law enforcement veteran for 17 years, is the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers and the SRO assigned to the largest high school in Arizona.
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