D.A.R.E. and S.R.O.
In 1991, the Hutchinson Police Department implemented the D.A.R.E. program. This is a program we continue to use. We currently have two D.A.R.E. officers that take care of 10 elementary schools and 2 catholic schools. Our D.A.R.E. program is like any other across the nation.
In the 1995 - 96 school year we implemented a school resource officer program. We had taught the D.A.R.E. curriculum in our two middle schools the year before, and felt we could do much more. I went to several cities in Kansas that had SRO programs and loved what they were doing.
The SRO program is designed to bridge the gap between law enforcement and students. We also want to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the school system. The SRO is in the school for the length of his/her shift. The SRO's have many jobs that they undertake. One of the most important jobs is that of a resource. I am a resource to many people including administrators, students, teachers, parents, and different people in the community. I also teach several classes on various topics in the school, among these are teen violence, gangs, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault search and seizure, shoplifting, drugs and alcohol, DUI. I also act the part of a counselor at the high school, I do not replace any counselors or psychiatrists we have, however, if a student feels comfortable talking to me about his or her problems, I listen and then help them with the appropriate resources whomever that might be. I am a focal point for SRS, community corrections, our detectives, or any other agency that might be helpful for the student. Lastly, I am here at the high school as a police officer. I am here to take a proactive stand against drugs, gangs, weapons, and violence in our schools, These are the same responsibilities our middle school SRO's have. Additionally at the high school I run several programs that are designed to reduce violence. Among these are peer mediation, peer counseling, Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), Crimestoppers at the high school, and police liaisons. SAVE is a club at the high school of students devoted to educating elementary students on the dangers of smoking, using drugs, and violence. This group is also devoted to taking a proactive stand on these issues in our school. The police club is for students interested in exploring a career in law enforcement.
It is hard to measure the effectiveness of the program. The benefits sometimes aren't easily seen. The SRO's impact many lives of our students in many ways. The students have the feeling of security in their schools. There are so many personal success stories of students I feel I have helped. I have worked to keep drugs, gangs, and weapons out of our schools, I am at many dances, events, sporting events, or anything that comes up during the year. For the school district, this means they always have security for their events. I have also become a football and wrestling coach for the school district.
For the police department the benefit is not having officers sent to the school to take reports. There is one already their to decrease patrol's case load. Detective's use the SRO's to help them follow up on the cases they are working. The fact that the SRO's get so much information and know so many students make them a valuable resource.
I will answer question 4 and 5 together. The police department covers the cost of one of the SRO'S. The second SRO was taken care of partly by the school district and partly by the school district. The split was different each of the first three years with the school district paying more each year. After three years the school district is to take over the costs of the SRO. For the final SRO, we applied for a grant however, did not receive it. A committee formed by the Chamber of Commerce raised the necessary money to implement the third officer. Other businesses in town have donated some equipment to make us more efficient.
At first, many members of the community wondered if our schools were so bad that we needed a full time officer in the school. We continued to respond that we are not here because the school's are bad. We are here to bridge the gap between law enforcement, schools, and students. We are also here to take a proactive part in keeping the school a safe, drug free environment. It didn't take long for the questions of the community to be answered. We very seldom hear anything negative about our SRO program. I believe this is a program that the community, the schools, the students, as well as the police department want and will do their best to ensure that it continues.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.