SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The goal of the School Resource Program is to improve and foster the relationship between police officers and the youth of Stamford. To a lesser extent, the program also helps maintain order in the City’s public high schools by having an officer present on school grounds in case a situation arises. The officers help with instances of sexual harassment, drugs, domestic abuse, and fights. They also spend time teaching students and developing after-school community involvement programs.
In the fall of 1996, an officer was placed in Stamford’s two public high schools: Officer Eva Maldonado is the School Resource Officer (SRO) at Westhill High School where she also runs an after-school program called Teens Against Graffiti (TAG) that cleans graffiti off of buildings, while Officer John Geter at Stamford High School created a program that has first time shoplifters answer to a jury of their peers and takes students on trips to Connecticut jails to see what incarceration is really like. Both officers completed the forty hour training that the National Associations of School Resource Officers (NASRO) provides all over the country for police officers entering schools.
2. When was the program created and why?
Upon returning from a United States Conference of Mayors meeting in 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Dannel P. Malloy introduced this initiative to combat violence in schools. This initiative, introduced to the Stamford Board of Education in early 1996, is based upon a model in Toledo where uniformed police officers walk the beat inside public high schools. Acting as officers and friends, these SROs began to forge relationships and engage youth in activities and conversation inside and outside of school.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
The School Resource Officers are credited with deterring crime in the public high schools. According to Stamford police files, calls for police from both high schools declined in the first school year the program was implemented.
There is less of a need for school officials to call the police if there is a trained officer on the premises, freeing up educators to educate. In addition to handling incidents in the schools, School Resource Officers also handle incidents in the surrounding neighborhoods, such as loitering at nearby stores.
Officers Maldonado and Geter meet with their supervisors in the Police Department once a week to discuss what is happening or changing in the schools. They meet informally with the principals of the two schools on a daily basis.
Sarah Arnold, Public Affairs Officer for the Stamford Public Schools, has not heard one negative word about the SRO program. Her thoughts were echoed by Tony Pavia, Principal of Stamford High School. "There is no downside to this program. The students have adapted well to having Officer Geter in school. Not only has having officers in school broken down the communication barriers between students and the police, it also allows the officers to keep school officials well informed of events happening in the community." Pavia goes on to say that students are more willing to go to a police officer with a problem if they are dealing and interacting with that officer everyday.
4. How is the program financed?
The Stamford Police Department pays for the School Resource Officers out of existing salaries because the program involved reassignments rather than expanding the force. During the summers, the School Resource Officers are assigned to the Youth Services Section of the Police Department.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at allHow has the community responded to the program?
The community—students, parents, and educators—have overwhelmingly embraced the SRO program. When residents in a community know and trust their police officers they will be less hesitant or apprehensive to report crime. The School Resource Officers utilize this philosophy by becoming familiar with the communities that they serve. Residents and students know the officers because they interact with them every day and see the positive changes they are bringing into Stamford public high schools. Officer Maldonado says, "You cannot fool the kids. They know when someone is real and they know that I am sincere. When they see that I am involved [in the community] and am reaching out, they reach out too."
A key to the success of the program is the non-adversarial relationship between students and the SROs. "I talk to students on the level of an adult who is a police officer, not as a police officer who is an adult." The response has been so positive that this school year (1998-1999), both Stamford public high schools and all four Stamford middle schools will have trained School Resource Officers.
6. Contact person:
The School Resource Officer Program is coordinated in the Stamford Police Department. The contact person is Sergeant Martin Treadway. The officers working as SROs report to and meet with him weekly.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.