School-Based Law Enforcement

In the early 1950s, the first school resource officer (SRO) was assigned to a school in Flint, Michigan as part of an effort to prevent crime among youth and promote a safe environment for students to learn. It was not common, at this time, for law enforcement personnel to be employed in academic settings. This changed however in later years, particularly during in the 1990s, when perceptions of youth crime rose, and several high-profile cases of school violence across the nation called for an increase in school safety. The federal government responded by increasing funding to schools in order to hire SROs.7 Since then, the prevalence of SROs and School-Based Law Enforcement (SBLE) has increased dramatically.1, 7

At the most basic level, a school-based police officer is a sworn police officer who is employed in a school, or a group of schools, with the goal of promoting a safe learning environment. Beyond that, the particular responsibilities of school-based law enforcement officers are subject to change based on the needs of the school.3 They may include teaching, providing security at school events, patrolling school grounds, and assisting principals with disciplinary measures, in addition to other tasks.2, 4 Most commonly, their assigned duties fall under one of three categories of responsibilities: enforcement, education, and mentorship.6 It is critical to remember that the role of school-based law enforcement is not universally defined and can vary greatly depending on the needs of the school.3 Many factors go into making school-based police effective in building a safe school climate. Among these factors, officers employed must be suitable for policing in a school setting, and the expectations placed on them by administrators must be reasonable.2, 5

Thinking About the School-to-Prison Pipeline


This article explores the school-to-prison pipeline concept and the factors that are believed to contribute to its existence. Research on this topic is summarized to provide an understanding of the evidence available. Given the current evidence, suggestions are offered for using research to inform policy and practice, while considering the unique context of individual students and school environments.(Read more…)

The Evolving Role of Police in Schools


As the role of police in the community has been dynamic throughout history, school-based law enforcement officers have expanded their range of duties since they were first assigned to schools. Many school districts in Texas, and across the country, have assigned law enforcement officers to their campuses. However, not all school-based law enforcement officers have the same role, because police and educational administrators can establish their own set of expectations for what the officer will be responsible for. To understand the variety of duties of school-based law enforcement, it is important to understand how the role has changed over time and what factors have contributed to its evolution. (Read more…)

A Brief History of School-Based Law Enforcement


The first time a law enforcement officer was permanently assigned to a United States school was in Flint, Michigan in the late 1950’s. The purpose of assigning police to school during this time was to provide a proactive approach to crime on the school grounds. The program was titled the “Police-School Liaison Program,” and administrators’ early opinions of it were generally positive. Based on this perceived satisfaction, other states followed with a similar strategy to deploy proactive policing in schools. Eventually these law enforcement officers came to be known as school resource officers (SROs). (Read more…)


1 Chongmin, N., & Gottfredson, D. C. (2013). Police officers in schools: Effects on school crime and the processing of offending behaviors. JQ: Justice Quarterly, 30(4), 619-650. doi: 10.1080/07418825.2011.615754

2 Coon, J. K., & Travis, L. F. (2012). The role of police in public schools: A comparison of principal and police reports of activities in schools. Police Practice & Research, 139(1), 15-30. doi: 10.1080/15614263.2011.589570

3 Cray, M., & Weiler, S. C. (2011). Policy to practice: A look at national and state implementation of school resource officer programs. Clearing House, 84(4), 164-170. doi: 10.1080/00098655.2011.564987

4 DeNisco, A. (2014). Police Presence Powers Up. District Administration, 50(11), 49-52.

5 James, R. K., Logan, J., & Davis, S. A. (2011). Including School Resource Officers in school-based crisis intervention: Strengthening student support. School Psychology International, 32(2), 210-224. doi: 10.1177/0143034311400828

6 McKenna, J. M., & Pollock, J. M. (2014). Law enforcement officers in schools: An analysis of ethical issues. Criminal Justice Ethics. doi: 10.1080/0731129X.2014.982974

7 Weiler, S. C., & Cray, M. (2011). Police at school: A brief history and current status of school resource officers. Clearing House, 84(4), p. 160-163. doi: 10.1080/00098655.2011.56496