SROs are called on to serve a multifaceted role, which includes duties such as “law enforcement officer, counselor, teacher, and liaison between law enforcement, schools, families, and the community” (Girouard, 2001, p. 1). While the inclusion of officers within schools is a rapidly growing phenomenon, research is scarce regarding the SROs role in decreasing incidents of school violence, increasing student perceptions of safety and security, and improving school climate outcomes.
Through the state legislature, Arizona has placed over 100 SRO’s in middle and high schools throughout the state. The first years of implementation has included mandated officer, police supervisor and school administrator training to help support and positively define the role these officers play in the school and community at-large. This paper provides an overview of a novel training designed to help transition SROs from a sole focus on law enforcement towards an integrated role as part of a larger school safety team focused on prevention, crisis intervention, and response. This includes a prevention oriented approach that includes 180 hour of Law-Related Education (LRE) and participation with mental health professionals and administrators on a school safety team that deals with universal, targeted and indicated prevention interventions school wide, as well as with threat assessment and crisis situations. The integration of the SRO within the school team demonstrates that the SRO contributes to an orderly, purposeful atmosphere, promoting a feeling of safety conducive to teaching and learning.
Additionally, this paper describes differences in school safety efforts and school climate perceptions between SROs, school administrators, and school mental health professionals. This data will be aggregated to demonstrate how this influences student and staff perceptions of school climate and school safety. Recommendations for school-based training, interventions, and research will be provided.