SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Alexandria Police Department, the City Government, and the School Administration developed a partnership and began working together to make the schools a safer place while offering students specialized resources. This partnership and the receipt of grant funding from the State and the Federal government provided the City and the Police Department the opportunity to place a full-time School Resource Officer in the Cityís two middle schools.
The School Resource Officerís duties are to assist in a variety of areas that include training, teaching, monitoring of cultural and social influences and activities, and to ensure prevention or early intervention with at-risk students. The primary mission of this program is to provide law enforcement assistance necessary to maintain a safe environment for the students and the staff. The program also encourages the School Resource Officer to become actively involved in the schoolís curriculum to enhance the students understanding of the Police Departmentís mission and practices.
The School Resource Officer works closely with the Principal, grade administrators and staff. Regular meetings are held to increase the flow of information between all parties. The exchange of information between the school staff and the School Resource Officer enables each group to disseminate information about students who display risky behaviors and trends that they have observed. Together, they develop a plan to assist these youths. These meetings are intended to build a stronger bond between the schools and the police department.
A Memorandum of Understanding was developed between the Cityís Public Schools and the Alexandria Police Department. It was important to have input from all participants into the development of this document. Therefore, we asked participation from the city school administrators, the principals of middle schools, the middle school grade administrators, the schoolís attorney, the School Resource Officer, the Police Department youth investigators, and the City Attorney. The MOU formalized the roles and responsibilities of the Chief of Police, the School Resource Officer and the School Principal.
The School Resource Officer is responsible for handling all calls for police service from the school and for coordinating the response of other police resources to the school. The SROs meet frequently with the Police youth investigators who investigate all serious crimes involving juveniles. These meetings provide a mechanism where information is exchanged and the investigative expertise of the detectives is tapped. The SRO handles criminal complaints made by school administrators, teachers, students and on occasion from studentís parents. Although a number of these complaints do end in a student being charged with a violation of law, many are deferred by the Court Services Unit for disposition. These youths are then guided towards programs that assist them with their particular problems. Others result in SRO conducted mediation sessions. In these mediation sessions, the SRO guides the youths through their problems and helps them arrive at a solution and agreement. This intervention has been helpful to stop the escalation of violent behavior in the schools.
The SRO program has a teaching element also. The SROs have been certified and trained to instruct the Class Action program. Class Action is a law-related educational curriculum designed to be presented by law enforcement officers in the classroom. In Class Action training, students learn about the law, their responsibilities as well as the consequences for their actions. The SROs also conduct classroom visitations at teacherís request. Classroom visitations offer the SRO an opportunity to discuss with the students the dangers of drugs, gang awareness, how to handle peer pressure, and other current issues concerning crime and violence especially in the schools.
2. When was the program created and why?
In August, 1997 the Police Department received a State grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services for one police officer to work in one of the two middle schools as a School Resource Officer (SRO). Late in September, 1997 the Police Department received a second grant for an additional SRO from the U.S. Department of Justice in the form of a COPS Universal Hiring Program Grant. This allowed the Police Department to staff a second police officer as a SRO in the other City middle school.
Following a gang-related stabbing of a 16 year old Hispanic youth in the summer of 1996 in front of one of the middle schools in Alexandria, the Mayor and School Board Chairperson announced a series of action steps to ensure the safety of school students. The Mayor pledged that a joint effort by the City and the Schools would address the Cityís gang problem and violence in the schools. One of the steps outlined in that process was to increase police presence in the schools. The Police Department was asked to redirect resources to establish a visible police presence in the middle schools to ensure the safety of Alexandria students and to assist the Schools in addressing safety concerns of parents, teachers and School administrators and staff.
The grants awarded to the Alexandria Police Department enabled the Chief of Police to have the funding to place two police officers full-time in the middle schools. Prior to developing the School Resource Officer program, the Police Department had only a few existing police-school programs that provided a formal police presence in the schools. We did have some successful police-school programs (D.A.R.E.-Drug Abuse Resistance Education and APAL-Alexandria Police Athletic League) on a part-time basis. In addition, each elementary school had been assigned a Community Oriented Policing (COPS) officer. The officer was directed to spend one hour per week in a school in his assigned area. Although the Police Departmentís contact with the schools was productive and positive, police staff believed that this minimum exposure within the schools was not sufficient to adequately address the complex issues that often arose. The Police Department believes that the staffing of the School Resource officers in the two middle schools fills a void in addressing school safety issues.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Evaluation of the program includes an assessment of the impact and outcomes of the services provided. Components of the evaluation process include: tracking changes in criminal activity or incidents reported on school property; documentation of policies or procedures that result from the program; implementation of a survey to assess changes in perceptions, behaviors, and/or information levels of the students and school staff; and measurements of services provided and students served.
4. How is the program financed?
The School Resource Officer program is financed through two grants, one officer position is partially funded by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the second officer position is partially funded by a U.S. Department of Justice COPS Universal Hiring Program Grant. The DCJS grant provided 90% of the salary and benefits for the first year of the program with a 10% City match to pay for the cost of uniforms, equipment, training and overtime. Another grant was awarded to continue the DCJS grant for a second year under the Edward Byrne/Community Oriented Justice Grant Program. This grant provided for 75% funding with a 25% City match. The U.S. Department of Justice COPS Universal grant provided 75% of salary and benefits for three years with a 25% City match for uniforms and equipment.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
There is strong community support for the School Resource Officer Program. In October, 1996 during a joint City School Board/City Council meeting, the Police Chief was asked to pursue funding for a uniformed officer to be placed in the two middle schools to increase police presence. The SROs attend PTA meetings and meet with studentsí parents whenever requested. Comments from parents, civic leaders and other community members have indicated that they are pleased that the SROs are present in the middle schools. They believe that police presence in the schools is necessary to create a safe school environment. At the beginning of the program, parents were concerned about having an armed uniformed officer in the schools. These concerns were quickly addressed through meetings with the parents. The SRO explained the School Resource Officer program and answered questions from parents. The SROs are now members of the PTA and attend their meetings to discuss concerns on a regular basis.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.