A relationship-building business
Law enforcement has a long history of working with schools to enhance safety and security. While the tactics have changed, the goal of School-Based Law Enforcement (SBLE) initiatives such as school resource officer programs and campus police has stayed the same: to improve relationships between local police and youth.
SBLE is a proactive example of community policing. The US Department of Justice defines community policing as a set of strategies for addressing social disorder, crime, and fear of crime through partnerships and problem-solving techniques. That is essentially what SBLE programs do at the school level.
Today’s SBLE officers are equal parts crime fighter, educator, emergency manager, role model, and mentor. To fulfill their many responsibilities, they need to build positive relationships with students, staff, youth organizations, parents, and community leaders.
The TASB Risk Management Fund offers these tips to help administrators make SBLE part of each campus’ fabric.
Introduce officers to stakeholders early
Soon after the school year starts, introduce officers to staff, students, and parents. Informal forums such as PTA meetings offer opportunities for stakeholders to meet the officers their children will see every day. Officers should explain their role in ensuring campuses remain safe, secure places to work and learn. They should also emphasize that to do their job effectively, they need everyone’s cooperation and participation.
Remember that officers are also educators
SBLE officers have unique expertise that can give real-world context to students in vocational programs such as EMS, public safety, and corrections. In elementary schools, something as simple as inviting officers to read to younger students can go a long way toward building relationships. Consider inviting parents to sit in so they know how their children are interacting with officers.
Participate in community events
Annual events such as National Night Out and National Police Week bring law enforcement and communities together. Including SBLE officers in these programs allows the community and students to recognize their contributions to safety and security. Some events offer staff the chance to participate as a group representing the organization.
Get practical tips from Fund members
Longview ISD , Wylie ISD, and Royce City ISD are just a few examples of Fund members who built SBLE programs on a foundation of strong relationships. Of course, every organization is unique, and strategies that work for one might not work for another. As you plan your program, remember that every positive interaction with stakeholders makes officers more approachable and helps them carry out the business of school-based law enforcement.
Make emergency planning a collaborative effort
Officers and other first responders will play an integral role during an emergency. Include them, as well as parent representatives when appropriate, on your safety and security committees, threat assessment team, safety audit team, and other emergency planning initiatives. Consider making drills a collaboration between the organization and first responders. Afterward, conduct a debriefing session to identify improvement opportunities.
Explore more tips
When educational organizations embrace school-based law enforcement, they bring highly trained public servants into their schools. Officers have a strong commitment to community policing. Their presence bolsters community confidence in school safety and security.
For more tips on establishing strong relationships between law enforcement and communities, explore these Department of Justice publications:
The Fund is here to help members make safety and security an integral part of their culture. If you need assistance, contact Melanie Moss, TASB emergency management and school security consultant.