The positive impact of the school resource officer program
By Sevie Zeller
Last summer the Lafayette Parish School Board and Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office agreed on a contract to have armed school resource officers (SROs) in every public school in the parish (the Sheriff’s Office is the only department with jurisdictional authority throughout the entire parish, including all municipalities). While still in its infancy, the program is creating surprising results.
Peace of Mind
The number one responsibility of an SRO is the safety of the students and faculty followed by the security of the property. Each SRO is required to take a minimum of 40 hours of instruction on working parameters. “They are not there to enforce school board policy,” said Lt. John Mowell, the public information officer of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office.
When asked how he felt the implementation of the SRO program has been on students, faculty and parents, Deputy Clyde Kerr, SRO at Woodvale Elementary School, responded that while there was a bit of apprehension at first, the response has been very positive. So positive, in fact, that he was nominated for law enforcement officer of the year.
“I hope our presence on campus gives the students peace of mind knowing a uniform presence is there for them at all times,” said Kerr.
There are those who believe that SRO presence may lead to distrust of law enforcement when the officers get involved in relatively minor offenses that could have been handled by the school.
Mowell firmly stated that the opposite was indeed true, “Having an officer on campus fosters trust. The ability to report issues increases because students have a personal relationship with the officer at school.”
Garnering positive reactions, repairing the school climate and dispelling anxiety and disorder among students, SROs often become mentors. They excel in conflict resolution, forge bonds and gather crucial information on crimes committed on campus.
Kerr said, “They’re kids. Most of the time their exposure to law enforcement isn’t positive. The daily interaction builds trust. If we can reach them early, we can stave off problems later.”
To Protect and Serve
Effectual SRO programs utilize the special training and expertise law enforcement officers possess to effectively protect and serve the school community. It is a job that is vital and making an encouraging impact.
When done correctly, the officer-student relationship can change how the youth in the community and law enforcement relate to each other. Even further, the end goal of keeping students and teachers safe is achieved.
Lafayette Student Protect App
Recently released, students, family and faculty can use the Lafayette Student Protect app on their phone to report any threats being made. It pushes the “see something, say something” campaign where information — given anonymously – is fed into a bigger system of detectives and/or the intelligence unit. It is also a useful tool for receiving personalized notifications from area school(s).