Do you have the desire and drive to protect and serve the most valuable and vulnerable members of society? Are you ready to be the wall of protection in dangerous situations? Could you act as a sense of security for a child? If so, your future path may lead to becoming a school resource officer (SRO).
What are the pros and cons of becoming a school resource officer (SRO)?
- Student interactions
- Being a mentor
- Being an educator
- Changing perceptions
- The first and last line of defense
- Misuse by administration and staff
- Use of force
- FOMO (fear of missing out)
If you are considering a bright future and rewarding future as a school resource officer, then this article has been written with you in mind. We’ll do our best to give you a complete rundown of the good, great, and not-so-great aspects of becoming an SRO. Let’s get this bus moving!
What is a school resource officer?
According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), a school resource officer (SRO) is “a career law enforcement officer assigned in a community policing capacity to a local educational agency. SROs work in collaboration with schools and community-based organizations to provide a positive and visible law enforcement presence on school campuses.”
As a school resource officer, you are a sworn officer of the law. An SRO acts in the same manner as any other law enforcement officer of their governing body but in a different environment.
What is the role of a school resource officer?
There are four major roles played by a school resource officer:
- Law Enforcement: As an SRO, you will have to address crime and disorder on the grounds of the school campus, as well as the surrounding areas. You will be tasked with maintaining order and diffusing situations amongst students.
- Informal Counselor: While acting as a school resource officer, you will interact with students and act as a liaison between students and community services for families and children.
- Educator: As an SRO, you’ll be tasked with educating students regarding safety, crime prevention, drug awareness, and other key topics related to law enforcement and the legal system.
- Emergency Manager: As a school resource officer, you will play an integral role in designing and implementing policies about emergency preparedness. You will also be tasked with coordinating with other first responders if an emergency situation does arise. As an SRO, you are an integral member of the school threat assessment team.
What are the duties of a school resource officer?
With the different roles played as a school resource officer, your duties as an SRO are a bit different than those of a general beat cop. You’ll still be tasked with enforcing the law, but how you do it will be a bit different. As a school resource officer, you’ll strive to utilize non-punitive techniques in your interactions with students and only resort to issuing citations and arrests as a last resort. You are not on campus to act as a disciplinarian, but as a protective arm of the administration that only intercedes when absolutely necessary.
Much of your day as an SRO will be spent interacting with the student body positively. Your presence can help students cope with the ever-changing social environment they witness daily and aid in building trust in law enforcement. Building a strong relationship with the students you oversee will allow you to be able to help your students in ways that many others may not be able to.
As a school resource officer, you have a great opportunity to help educate the students you protect. The role you play in their lives gives you the ability to teach students how to prevent and report a crime, including drug and gang awareness. This is a particularly important role in inner-city school environments.
Lastly, as an SRO, you will be the first and last line of defense for your students. Designing and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for any and all types of emergencies is a duty that should not be taken lightly. There is no situation that you cannot be prepared for, regardless of how large or small your campus may be. You must ensure the safety of your students, and being prepared is one way to do that.
Are all school resource officer positions the same?
Not all SRO positions are the same. There are two primary methods that law enforcement agencies utilize when placing school resource officers: the mobile model and the assigned model.
Mobile model SRO positions cover a wide range of schools, either within a designated area of a large city or all schools in a specific jurisdiction. In this model, school resource officers are not appointed to a single school campus but cover many campuses by responding to calls for service or assistance from a school in their coverage area, while simultaneously covering general law enforcement duties. The mobile, or roving/roaming, model is sometimes used when a law enforcement agency does not have the manpower to place a designated officer at each individual campus while still providing coverage to the community.
Assigned model school resource officer positions cover one particular school, or schools, consistently. In this model, the SRO generally goes to his/her campus daily and may have a designated office on campus. An assigned model SRO will conduct regular school patrols, work intimately with school administration, mentor or informally counsel students, and educate their students.
Regardless of the model utilized by your governing law enforcement body, the outcome of being a school resource officer is the same: ensuring the safety and security of students, teachers, and administration.
Now that we’ve covered what an SRO is, the roles you will take on, the duties you’ll incur, and the types of school resource officer positions you may see, let’s get to the main course.
The pros of becoming a school resource officer (you know, the good stuff!)
While being a law enforcement officer is fulfilling, becoming a school resource officer takes it to the next level. Some of the benefits of being an SRO are:
- Children, pre-teens, and teens: They truly can be fun, albeit challenging. When else will you be able to say that checking your duty rig for ketchup is a part of your daily routine?
- Being a mentor: You have the opportunity to positively impact the lives you protect by becoming a sounding board for your students and building trust in law enforcement.
- Being an educator: Not only can you mentor your students and provide them with a safe place to fall, but you can take this time to teach your students about crime, safety, prevention, and a whole plethora of topics that will enable them to live better lives.
- Changing perspectives: It is in this time you spend with your students that you can change their viewing lens of law enforcement. Imagine having the power to turn a negative into a positive! As an SRO, you have that ability. You can make the change that will impact the rest of their lives.
- First and the last line of defense: You are the protector of your students. Your actions (or inactions) can make or break a situation.
- And much, much more!
The benefits of becoming a school resource officer are many and the accomplishment you feel when a student turns to you for assistance, reassurance, or even just a high-five might just be better than any accolade out there.
How can you get promoted as a police officer?
The cons of becoming a school resource officer (you can’t have the good without the bad)
Although the benefits of becoming a school resource officer are numerous, there are a few valleys amongst the mountains. A few of the drawbacks of being an SRO are:
- Staff/administration misuse: There are a multitude of anecdotal stories of administrators or staff using SROs to inappropriately enforce school rules. Remember, you are not a disciplinarian.
- Use of force: It can be extremely hard not to cross that line when it comes to use of force, especially when students are the same size, if not larger, than their school resource officer. The tactics applied to adults in the general public aren’t readily acceptable when used on minors, regardless of their size. These actions can lead to physical and psychological damage.
- FOMO (fear of missing out): Hopefully, as a school resource officer, you won’t be regaling your fellow officers with tales of foot pursuits or shootouts. For some law enforcement officers, this is a fatal flaw in being an SRO. Your public interactions won’t be full of excitement and chaos (unless you’re policing pre-K and kindergarten…can you say W-I-L-D!!) but they are still fulfilling. If you require the adrenal rush associated with taking down a suspect or pursuing a high-speed chase, becoming an SRO is likely not for you.
For the most part, the benefits of becoming a school resource officer far outweigh the drawbacks.
Off the bus!
If a career as a law enforcement officer, impromptu counselor, teacher, mentor, and the occasional napkin for dirty fingers, is something that you can see in your future, then becoming a school resource officer is the perfect career for you!
Are there training resources for SROs?
The answer is a resounding YES! There are many programs for training resources for SROs, from recognizing mental health disorders, drug use, or abuse, to how to appropriately speak to minors. The training resources are endless.
Are SROs “real” police officers?
Yes. School resource officers are sworn officers who abide by the rules, training, regulations, and qualifications of their governing bodies.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your police exam click here.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.