Neighbourhood Safety Initiative - School Resource Officers
Prevention is better than cure (and cheaper)
Schools are in many respects ‘the centre of the community’. Everyone in a neighbourhood has either been at school, has family at school or lives near a school. What happens in the school affects the community, and vice versa. Social issues from the neighbourhood are brought into the schools (sometimes literally, in the form of intrusions by gangsters), and the state of the school (flourishing, depressed, or anywhere in between) sends ripples back into the community.
School Resource Officers (SROs) are law enforcement officers who are deployed specifically to schools. They are much more than ‘security guards’ – like NSOs, they are problem solvers and facilitators, while still having the authority of trained law enforcement officers.
To create and maintain an environment in and around designated schools that is conducive to teaching, learning, and personal and social development.
Key roles and responsibilities
- In cooperation with the principal, staff, pupils and parents, to contribute actively to the creation of a safe and inspiring environment in and around the school.
- To identify opportunities for improving safety, and to make plans to take advantage of these opportunities.
- To identify risks of unsafety and harms, and to devise strategies and plans to mitigate or eliminate them.
- To develop and make regular use of a network of partners (individuals, organisations or agencies) who may be of assistance in achieving the above objectives.
- To build trust in their integrity and competence as law-enforcement officers.
A few SROs in an area decided to offer training in drilling (or ‘marching’) to volunteer pupils in three schools. After three months they held a mini-festival to show off their new skills. A 13-year-old team member, when asked what this activity meant to her, said, “I’m learning discipline. I talk to people differently now”.
The discipline she speaks of is not of an oppressive kind, but an internalised structure which provides creative form and direction to her thoughts and behaviour.
So, the external order that the presence of SROs helps to bring about in a school is a potential framework for growth and personal liberation in an environment in which such opportunities are limited.
Guidelines for implementation
Get to know
- the place: the school buildings and grounds, the immediate surrounds of the school, and the routes pupils follow to get to school and back;
- the people: inside the school, from the principal to the cleaners; outside the school, the parents and neighbours. They all have knowledge and insights that will be useful in creating safety;
- the issues: some will be obvious; some the SRO will become aware of through their continuing interaction with members of the school community;
- the potential partners: as in the case with NSOs, some things SROs can deal with effectively by themselves, but many problems and opportunities require specific partners, whether in policing, in social development (truancy, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, etc.), in NGOs or in the community.