“We don’t take a position on whether law enforcement should be in school or not,” Salomon said. “But if they are going to be in school, as is the case in a lot of jurisdictions around the country, then they need to have the right training, resources, and support to be able to do their job well.”
Most members of the National Association of School Resource Officers, which does not cover every cop who works in a school, receive at least some training beyond what is required by police academies or school orientation, according to a Justice Center survey.
Training covers a variety of scenarios, including investigation protocols, active shooters, conflict resolution, addressing trauma, and working with school administrators. Some said they were trained on bullying and suicide prevention.
Canady, the NASRO executive director, gets frustrated when people say there isn’t any training available for school-based police officers. His organization has trained school resource officers for more than two decades—but “we only train the ones that come to us.”
NASRO, the largest provider of school-based training, instructs about 1,500 officers each year, Canady said. His program teaches officers concepts in law enforcement, and in teaching and informal counseling.
“The SROs should become as if they’re a member of the school team, and certainly another trusted adult in the building that certainly is there to protect students, but certainly also to be aware of any criminal issues going on in the schools,” Canady said. “They serve a lot of different roles, especially if they’re doing the job the proper way.”
In the 1990s, Kristen Amundson served as chairwoman of the Fairfax County, Virginia, school board, where she supported the growth of resource officers in her schools. Now as the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, she still does.
If school police are properly trained and employ community-based policing techniques, Amundson said, their presence can be a “gamechanger” in maintaining a positive school culture. The officers’ presence helped steer her schools away from criminal activity.
“We never had metal detectors at the doors, we never had to move football games from night to afternoon because it was just a culture of safety, and the SRO was there to be part of it,” she said.
However, since school-based police are usually recruited from law enforcement, according to a Justice Policy Institute report, even officers trained by NASRO typically have years of law-enforcement training and only three days of training in counseling and education.
A Los Angeles Police Department detective, Richard Askew, said his time as an educator and as an SRO influenced his understanding of the way children behave and interact with authority.
Before joining the LAPD, Askew worked for two years at a charter school serving at-risk students aged 16-24 who were unable to stay engaged with traditional or alternative methods. Joining LAPD’s juvenile narcotics division, Askew was planted in L.A. schools as an undercover investigator.