CITY OF PLANO,
SCHOOL LIAISON OFFICER PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Plano Police Departmentís policing program to combat school violence is the School Liaison Officer Program. Assignment to the program consists of 16 officers and two Sergeants. Each secondary education campus, grade six through 12, has a full-time uniformed officer assigned. The two Sergeants supervise the program under direction of the Captain of Support Services.
The SLO (school liaison officer) Program provides the police with the opportunity to instill lasting and positive impressions on students, and to clarify any misconceptions they may have about law enforcement. By sharing resources through joint programs, schools and law enforcement can respond more effectively to problems of youth and take a proactive approach to juvenile crime. The two agencies, in a combined effort, are serving the needs of youth as problems arise. The SLO Program is an intervention as well as a preventive program. As a form of community policing, the program can "attack problems by dividing resources as upstream preventive work and downstream intervention work."
Basically the SLOís function is to provide law enforcement services, teach specialized classes, serve as an advisor to teachers as well as parents, and as a mentor to students. In addition to providing law enforcement services, the program is designed to be an introduction of students to police officers and their responsibilities. The primary objective of the officers is to involve themselves with their students as much as possible. The SLO is the only contact many students will have with police officers in a positive setting. The program provides an excellent opportunity to help create an environment of trust and respect for police officers. The SLOís law enforcement response is to conduct preliminary investigations, provide an immediate emergency response to criminal activity on campus, handle minor criminal violations, and assist with other investigations as needed. Time consuming or complicated investigations which potentially will remove the SLO from their primary duties or from their campus are assigned to a detective or juvenile officer from the Police Departments Criminal Investigative Unit.
Each SLO coordinates a Crime Stoppers Program at their campus. One SLO won several State awards due to the success of his program in 1998. The Greater Dallas Crime Counsel provides funding for the Crime Stoppers Program.
2. When was the program created and why?
During the early 1980ís the Department saw a need to become involved in a positive setting with future citizens of Plano. A federal grant funded Planoís School Liaison Officer Program that began in 1983 with two officers. This seemed to be the best program to reach the masses of the coming generation of citizens. The two officers were assigned to the senior high schools and split their time among the feeder high schools. Assignment of a third officer to the program was made in the late 1980ís. Each of the two senior high schools were assigned a full time officer and the third officer divided his time among the feeder high schools. During 1991/92, the Plano School District and the Police Department initiated a phase-in program. The goal was to have an officer assigned to each of the senior high schools, high schools, and middle schools. Accomplishment of that goal was reached at the beginning of school year 1998/99. All 16 secondary education campuses now have an officer assigned. As the School District expands the SLO Program will grow with it.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Analysis of the programís effectiveness is primarily accomplished through use of statistical reports. Individual campus disciplinary records (furnished by the School District), Crime Stoppers reports, and liaison officer activity reports are some of the tools used in the measure.
The Plano School District has 51 school campuses and a population of 43,349 students. The Police Department has regular interaction with approximately 23,000 of the students (grades 6 through 12) through the SLO Program. Crime is reduced through police presence and education, and crimes are solved through intelligence information gathering. An example of the success and growth of the program is evidenced in a comparison study of activity and acceptance of the officers' presence between 1996 and 1997.
An example of the success and growth of the school crime stoppers is a comparison study of the same two years.
The SLO Program is 15 years old. Another, and more obvious measurement of the programís success is citizens approaching officers and thanking them for being at their school 10 and 12 years ago. They say it really made a difference in their lives. Removal of 26 weapons from school campuses and successful counseling of students to stay in school are other measures and achievements that can be attributed directly to the SLO Program.
4. How is the program financed?
The costs of the program are shared between the Plano Police Department (85%) and the Plano Independent School District (15%).
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
There is no direct community involvement. The program is not governed by a counsel or board. The Police Department and the School District work closely together toward and with a common goal. Coordination of the program is determined by written agreement between the Police Department and the School District.
Support through teacher and student involvement enhances popularity of the program. Community response to the program is extremely positive. The community is aware of the officers assigned to the campuses and regular contact with the campus SLO is common. Our citizens are accustomed to and expect an officer to be on campus.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.