SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM (SRO)
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
In the Spring of 1998, the City of Norfolk implemented a School Resource Officer Program as a means of addressing the potential threat of school violence. The SRO Program, which currently operates in two of Norfolk’s secondary schools, is a cooperative effort between the Norfolk Police Department and the Norfolk Public Schools. The program uses two sworn uniformed police officers whose sole duty assignments are confined to their designated school and its adjacent grounds. The officers work in conjunction with the central school administration, the individual school principal and school's staff. Their source of supervision is the Officer-in-Charge of the Police Department's Crime Prevention Section.
2. When was the program created and why?
The increasing number of highly publicized stories relating to tragic events taking place on the campuses of our nation's schools has contributed to growing fears and concerns on the part of both parents and school personnel regarding school safety. In response to such concerns, the Police Department and the School Administration jointly implemented the SRO program in the Spring of 1998, which is designed to reduce the likelihood of criminal activity occurring on school grounds whether committed by students or by trespassing outsiders. The presence of the SRO provides a fixed deterrent to the criminal behavior as well as an emotional reassurance to the students and their families, and the school faculty and staff. Additionally, the SRO provides the students a role model, a mentor, a liaison to other available services, and a caring and listening authority.
3. How is the program financed?
Currently, the SRO program is principally funded by the Norfolk Police Department with the dedication of two officers. Norfolk Public Schools has reciprocated by providing the officers appropriate office space and funding for formal training specific to school resource officer programs. Efforts to expand the program through increased funding are being studied by both the
Norfolk Public Schools and the Norfolk Police Department. As a part of this view toward expansion, the availability of state and federal grants is being explored.
4. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
As with most prevention programs, objectively measuring effectiveness is a difficult task at best. While the city has experienced no catastrophic criminal situations at its schools, there has been an increase in reported criminal incidents occurring in the SRO targeted schools. However, rather than proving the SRO program counterproductive, the increases are believed to be attributable to the officers' zero tolerance approach to illegal activity and the resulting increased police reporting. Such increases were expected, but nevertheless, the reports are closely reviewed for any significant trends or abnormalities.
Accompanying the criminal reporting aspect of the measurement piece, the Norfolk Public Schools utilize an automated system to track and monitor incidents such as students' disruptive behavior and other violations of school policy. Reports from this system show that, despite the officers' zero tolerance approach and the increases in criminal reports, conduct problems have decreased by 3% in the SRO program schools.
5. How is the community involved in the program? How has the community responded to the program?
Community response to the SRO program has been overwhelmingly favorable. Developed in part in response to parental concerns expressed to school administrators, police and city officials, as well as to school board and city council members, the implementation of the SRO program demonstrated that issues voiced by citizens were being heard and addressed in Norfolk. Similarly, as reflected in an informal survey which was conducted, the responses of the participating schools' faculties and security personnel, and the majority of the students have also been extremely favorable and supportive.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.