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Written by Chief Thomas Y. Trawick
on August 18, 2023

As a public resource presented by Reimagined Campus Security, LLC in partnership with Gaggle “Fridays with Chief Trawick” shares insight, information, and awareness to guide schools regarding safety and preparedness. Chief Thomas Y. Trawick, Jr. (Ret.) is the former Chief of Safety and Security for Clayton County Public Schools where he recently retired. This week’s topic is the rekindled School Resource Officers in Schools debate.

Lately, there has been an ongoing debate over the usage of School Resource Officers (SROs) versus Police Free School Zones. For this blog post and debate purposes, there is no wrong answer to having a Police Free School Zone or hiring SROs on a school campus. Instead of supporting either side of the debate, we will focus our attention on defining both concepts and illustrating their advantages.

SROs are trained and sworn (certified) police officers that have law enforcement responsibilities on a specific school campus. Because they are a sworn member of an internal institutional organization entity like campus police, local police department, or sheriff department, they will usually carry their firearms. They will be in a clearly identifiable police uniform with independent power of arrest. 

The advantage of employing SROs is their ability to provide a highly visible police presence to deter or identify trespassers on campus. They provide a service to the surrounding community by addressing concerns such as loitering, stop signs, speeding issues in school zones, and truancy challenges. SROs are responsible for investigating violations of criminal law and serve the roles of preventing and responding to school-based crime; fostering positive relationships among law enforcement, educators, and youth; and helping to promote a positive school climate. Lastly, they play an integral role in designing and implementing policies regarding emergency preparedness. SROs may also be tasked with coordinating with other first responders if an emergency arises and are integral members of the school threat assessment team.

In cities and communities across the country, school districts are terminating contracts with police entities, as well as dissolving their internal campus police departments, and reinventing and transitioning the role of police in schools. While this movement is not new, it has picked up momentum following recent events and protests.

Some educators as well as community members opine schools are meant to foster the health and safety of students while also creating a sense of belonging and security. Therefore, the advantage of creating Police Free School Zones allows school districts to invest funding into non-law enforcement strategies and processes to enhance student experiences. Police Free School Zones are initiated by the dismantling of the school policing infrastructure, culture, and practice; ending school militarization and surveillance; and building a new, more just, and intellectual education system to enhance safety and overall growth for students.  

Many believe student behavior is positively impacted by investing in holistic social and emotional competencies, providing access to mental health professionals, and creating a positive school and campus climate. Schools transform when all school personnel are trained on trauma-informed and restorative justice teaching practices so that the needs of the students can be properly addressed, especially students in crisis. This fosters feelings of safety and belonging both within and beyond the classroom. Therefore, the re-direction of those funds from SROs to these competencies are more useful expenditure especially considering inadequate funding already plaguing many school districts.

Campuses debating whether or not to have SROs on campus should base their decisions on multiple factors such as: 

  • •  the climate in their community relative to police relations
  • •  crime in the community
  • •  their risk capacity

There is no right or wrong decision when determining utilizing SROs or Police Free School Zones to safeguard your campus. It is based on a school’s specific needs and expectations; therefore, make the correct decision for your campus!

 

Connect with Chief Trawick on LinkedIn

Learn more about Reimagined Campus Security, LLC

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