Although the crime rate is below
average in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, crimes are still committed here quite
regularly. Too often they involve the youth of this city of 28,000 residents.
Statistics from recent years clearly show a growing number of juveniles are
perpetrating these crimes as well as being victimized by them. Likewise, the
number of violent crimes being committed by and against our children is
increasing, both in the community and in the schools.
Concern for these disturbing trends led
to the implementation of a School Resource Officers program in the Oak Ridge
Police Department which dedicates three full-time officers to the Oak Ridge
Schools. These officers serve as a direct law enforcement resource to the
schools and, more importantly, an educator and advisor to the students. The goal
in this program is to establish within the student a basic understanding of law
and order and to instill a genuine respect for laws and law enforcers. The
desired result would be a decrease in the crime rate in Oak Ridge, specifically
the juvenile crime rate.
1. Briefly describe the structure of
The School Resource Officers (SRO)
program currently employs three full-time certified police officers who are
assigned to work within the seven schools of the city school system and at one
private school. These officers report to a staff sergeant who oversees the
program. The city school system includes one high school of approximately 1600
students where one officer is assigned, and two middle schools each with two
"feeder" elementary schools. The two remaining officers are each assigned to a
middle school and their feeder schools. One of the middle school officers is
also assigned to the private K-8 school.
Each of the middle school officers
instruct the D.A.R.E. program to the fifth-graders at their respective schools,
and, beginning this year, will instruct Project ALERT to the sixth and seventh
graders. These are drug and violence prevention programs which have proven to be
effective nationally. Another new addition to the middle school education
program this year is a course entitled "Community Law and Safety." This is a
comprehensive nine-week course that is being taught to all eighth graders at one
of the middle schools by the assigned SRO. It includes lessons on rights and
responsibilities, understanding the justice system, effects of crime and
violence in the community, and conflict resolution.
In addition the middle school education
programs, the SROs present drug and violence prevention lessons to K-4 students
throughout the school year. The officer assigned to the high school works
closely with the staff and faculty to incorporate drug and violence prevention
education into as many classes as is feasible.
All School Resource Officers have
offices at their respective schools which easily accommodate counseling sessions
with students, parents and staff who seek their help. They also spend time with
the students in non-threatening, relaxed conditions outside their office and
classrooms (i.e. on the playgrounds, in the cafeterias, etc.) which promotes a
more personal and unofficial rapport with the students. But, their uniformed
presence is a visual reminder that a law enforcer is immediately accessible if
the need arises. This, to some, serves as a deterrent to criminal or violent
behavior. To others, it represents protection.
The summer months for the SROs are
spent presenting a program called "Safety City." This is a 20-hour safety "camp"
for uprising kindergartners and first graders which instructs them in 20
different areas of safety ranging from pedestrian safety to safety from sexual
abuse. This program serves as a two-fold introduction for the 120 students who
participate each summer in that they learn safety practices as well as learning
that police officers are their helpers and friends.
The Safety City program serves as a
catapult for the following years of personal interaction the students have with
the police officers in their schools. With repeated non-confrontational
interaction and instruction these students receive from the SROs, it is expected
that they will grow to better understand and respect the laws and the law
enforcers. Thus, they will commit fewer crimes and acts of violence. They will
also better understand and recognize danger and victimization and be more likely
to protect themselves and report these things to appropriate
2. When was the program created and
The Safety City program was first
implemented in the summer of 1992 when the police department and the local YWCA
joined in a partnership to educate the children of Oak Ridge about safety. In
1993 the D.A.R.E. program was first taught in a fifth grade class in Oak Ridge.
That same year, an eighth grade student was caught with a gun in a classroom.
The concern for student safety suddenly became a priority.
In 1994 an additional officer was
certified to teach D.A.R.E. and three more classes received the program. After
two very successful runs with Safety City, an overwhelming response to D.A.R.E.,
and a growing concern about real and potential violence in the schools, the
police department approached the city schools with a plan to bring this two-fold
education into all of the schools and classrooms, adding the feature of
full-time immediate accessible law enforcement on the campuses. After
considering the growing lack of respect of students toward school authority and
the growing concern for student, the schools accepted the police departmentís
offer and provided accommodations.
In 1994 the original two SROs received
training from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and
immediately began instruction, counseling and law enforcement within the
schools. The program was a tremendous success, and the demands on the officers
grew beyond what their schedule could handle. In 1998 an additional officer was
assigned to the schools, bringing the total to three.
3. How do you measure the programís
A formal program assessment procedure
is not currently in place. Rather, the effectiveness of the SRO program is
informally measured through the monitoring of the city juvenile crime rate and
school violent and criminal incident rates. Both monitored rates indicate no
significant increase in violent incidents involving youth since the
implementation of the SRO program.
The effectiveness of the SRO program is
measured unofficially through the spontaneous, unsolicited responses received by
the police department from school administrators, teachers, parents, and
students. Many of those who have made unofficial comments about the SRO program
have noted that it seems to be making a positive impact in the schools that is
carrying over into the community as well. Students and staff report feeling
safer in school, and parents appreciate the added security and information their
children are receiving from the officers.
4. How is the program
Expenses for the SRO program include
salary and benefits for three officers, training, vehicles, communication
equipment, public educational materials, and miscellaneous office supplies and
equipment. Financing for the SRO program is funded entirely by city revenues and
falls under the management of the police department.
5. How is the community involved in the
program, if at all? How has the community responded to the
The community is involved in the SRO
program primarily through business support of the D.A.R.E. program. Local
businesses donate their services and products to promote D.A.R.E. and drug
prevention. For example, a popular local pizza restaurant sponsors pizza parties
for graduating D.A.R.E. classes, and a local store from a large nationally
recognized chain of department stores donated money to purchase D.A.R.E.
materials used in that program. Other local businesses contribute their time and
services to various D.A.R.E. events.
The Safety City program is jointly
presented by the police department and the YWCA which solicits community
business support to fund that program in exchange for significant public
recognition. Safety City also involves volunteer help from approximately 20 area
teens who each donate 20 - 120 hours of their time. The community response to
the SRO program has been very supportive. Area businesses are eager to provide
materials and funding if and when needed.