2001 School Resource Officer Survey
National Association of School Resource Officers
The first and largest professional industry survey of police officers assigned to schools was conducted in July of 2001. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) entered into agreement with Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Servicesto design and analyze the 61-question survey that was administered at NASRO’s Miami conference of over 1,000 school resource officers from 47 states in July of 2001.
School-based police officers prevent a substantial amount of school violence, have exceptionally positive relationships with students and educators, and improve the reporting of school crimes that otherwise may go unreported to police, according to the survey results.
“This survey validates the proactive role of school resource officers and reinforces that only a very small percentage of school-based officers describe the majority of their work as involving arrests and investigations,” said Curt Lavarello, Executive Director of NASRO, as he released the survey results.
Ken Trump, author of the report and National School Safety and Security Services‘ president, said that the survey represents the first large-scale collection of concrete data on SRO program operations, impact, perceptions, and demographics ever assembled in the nation.
The survey revealed that 99% of SROs report that their program has improved school safety and prevented crime and violence. 84% of SROs believe that in general, crimes on school campuses nationwide are underreported to police, while 86% of the officers report that the presence of a police officer on campus improves the accuracy of school crime reporting. Lavarello and Trump identified other significant survey findings to include:
On a scale of 1 to 5 (1= poor and 5=excellent), SROs reported strong positive relationships with school administrators (average 4.40), students (4.39), school support staff (4.36) and teachers (4.27).
Regarding periodic public debates of whether school-based officers should be armed with a firearm, 91% of school officers believe that an unarmed officer puts students at a greater risk of harm or injury. 98% of officers do not believe that an officer who is armed puts students at a greater risk of harm or injury. Over 97% of the surveyed officers do carry a firearm as SROs. 95% of the officers have never had someone on campus attempt to disarm them. Of the 23 officers who each had one such experience, all 23 reported that the attempts to disarm them were unsuccessful. 14% of the officers reported having to pull their firearm from their holster in response to a perceived threat to their safety or to the safety of others at the school, while 83% have never had to do so.
91% of the SROs reported that at least half of their job duties consist of preventative tasks. Only 7% said that the majority of their emphasis is on enforcement and investigations. (See survey page 4 for a breakdown of tasks)
Over 94% of SROs stated that students have reported to them violent acts or similar safety threats that the students believed were going to occur. Officers estimated a total of 11,155 such reports or an average of 17 per officer. 92% of the officers reported preventing from 1 to 25 violent acts in an average school year, with 28% of these officers preventing an average of more than 25 acts per year. 67% of the officers reported that they have prevented a school faculty or staff member from being assaulted on campus and officers estimated a total of 3,200 such cases in their SRO careers, or an average of about 7 incidents per officer.
Almost 72% of the officers stated that the majority of their school arrests are for misdemeanor offenses. Still, approximately 24% of the officers have taken a loaded firearm from a student or other individual on campus, while over 3 ½ times as many officers (87%) have confiscated knives or bladed weapons. Officers estimated a total of 6,100 bladed weapons and 344 loaded guns confiscated during their SRO careers.
While over 90% of the SROs have less than 10 years of experience in SRO positions, 67% have over 10 years of total law enforcement experience. SROs also far exceed minimum education requirements. Although almost 68% said that a high school diploma is the highest level of education required by their agencies, over 85% of the officers have a minimum of an associate’s degree or some college courses. Of this 85%, 30% have bachelor degrees, 4% have master’s degrees, and 1% have doctorate degrees.
SROs strongly believe that individuals who shape public opinion and determine policy and funding issues related to school safety do not fully understand the roles and functions of SROs. 71% of the officers said that the media does not understand SRO roles, while 70% also said that elected officials do not understand their roles. 47% of the respondents believe that school violence researchers and academicians do not understand SRO roles, while another 47% believe that they do.
The survey results reinforce the findings of a University of New Hampshire Justiceworks study of SRO effectiveness reported in early 2001. The Justiceworks study found SRO programs to be effective based on student surveys that measured student behavior and, perceptual and attitudinal responses in nine New Hampshire high schools.
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