SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Toledo Police Department uses a broad range of tools in combating youth violence in our schools. Presently our department has 19 Toledo Police Officers assigned to all of the public junior and senior high schools inside the city limits. These officers are much more than "security guards" and have integrated into the daily activities of the school as a member of that school's community. Along with the traditional duties of being a Peace Officer the School Resource Officers participate in many non-traditional roles. In conjunction with the School Resource Officers we have three D.A.R.E. officers and three kindergarten through 6th grade officers.
One program that is used on a daily basis is mediation. During the school day the officer or a staff member may receive information of a pending fight or violent situation that may be developing between students. These students are identified and brought to an area where either individually or together the subjects can talk out the problem with the officer acting as a mediator. During this mediation all parties are advised of the consequences of their actions and that finding the truth and working out a disagreement is the most responsible thing to do.
An innovative program that has been successful in one of our high schools is modeled after our Crimestopper program. The school has a small cash account where they will pay for anonymous information received. If the information leads to weapons and or contraband that our brought into the school being confiscated, the anonymous informant will be paid.
Our officers in the junior highs have the responsibility to give the G.R.E.A.T. training. This is given during health class and is made a part of the curriculum of the class. This nationally recognized program emphasizes that violence is not the answer and ways of avoiding situations that are potentially dangerous (i.e. gang membership, violent confrontations). The kindergarten through 6th grade officers travel throughout the city and give several different programs to schools via classroom and assembly. Gun and traffic safety, stranger danger and an anti-violence program are some of the many presentations made by theses officers.
D.A.R.E. officers like the kindergarten through 6 officers travel though out the city and give their program at scheduled times. This also is a national recognized program where the officers emphasize that drugs and the associated violence that is included with that lifestyle is both wrong and inherently dangerous.
2. When was the program created and why?
The School Resource program was created in 1994 as part of our department's move to community oriented policing. It was felt that schools, when they are in session, are unique communities unto themselves. They would require a different policing approach that was more mentoring than the traditional "take them to jail". The School Resource Officers became part of the school's community and were there every day giving continuity to the schools daily functioning. Students and staff got to know the "person behind the badge". An increased level of trust and respect developed between the officers and the students and staff. The continuity from the kindergarten through 6th grade officers and D.A.R.E. officers that may only see students during a special class or program is taken to another level. Now students and staff see the same officer every school day.
Our city at the same time was experiencing increased levels of overt gang activity. Youth were wearing colors to school. Gang fights were a regular occurrence on the campus. Toledo was experiencing gang related violence on a weekly basis and drive-by shootings were not uncommon.
It was determined that the traditional police approach was not working as a deterrent. The Chief and his staff determined that by educating youth and giving the youth a chance at a personal relationship with a concerned officer could affect a youth's decisions for the better. The youth themselves would become the key to reducing the violence themselves by making better life decisions for themselves and hopefully assisting others that may be heading in the wrong direction. The officers would be there for these youth who need some guidance and also to take care of those that will not participate in society as is required. This makes the school safer and more secure for those that are there to be taught how to succeed in life, not just survive the day.
3. How do you measure the program's effectiveness?
Jeffrey J. Knowles, a researcher from the Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice, supervised a survey based-study of Toledo's School Officer Resource program. The feelings of students and staff as they relate to safety were the most important aspects measured. The survey included 1,600 students, 100 teachers and staff and 17 School Resource Officers serving the city's public junior and senior high schools. There was an 86.4% response rate which in and of itself is impressive. Students and teachers showed an increase in feelings of safety with officers present in the schools. Additionally they supported the continuance and even expansion of the program. School Resource Officers are very supportive of the program and feel a part of the school community.
The School Resource Officers presence does make a drastic difference to students and parents. If the student's feel safer in their school this enhances the learning environment and makes the educational experience a positive one.
4. How is the program financed?
The 19 School Resource Officers, 3 kindergarten through 6 officers and 3 D.A.R.E. officers are all paid through the police department's operating budget. D.A.R.E. officers have received grants to assist in paying for training and instructional aids. Officers who give the G.R.E.A.T. training have received funds through parent and teacher groups for teaching aids and premiums (T-shirts etc.).
5. How is the community involved with the program?
Parent groups are very staunch in their support of the School Resource Officer program as well as the kindergarten through 6th and D.A.R.E. programs. They have stated that having an officer in the junior and senior high schools gives them more confidence that their child is safe while at school. Citizens that live around the schools appreciate that students will not be causing the disturbances before and after school in the neighborhood that they did prior to the institution of the program.
Block Watch programs that may have a problem with activities at or around a specific school now have a law enforcement contact at that school. Skip houses, loitering and students trespassing to and from school are a few of the citizen referred complaints that the School Resource Officer has dealt with.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.