In Praise of School Resource Officers

Source: WWBT-TV.

by James A. Bacon

Last week a large fight broke out at Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield County. Police were summoned, and the school shut down for the day. According to WWBT-TV, a video circulating on social media showed school resource officers (SROs) getting hit as “more than ten” students attacked one another in the hallway.

Some Virginia school districts are eliminating SROs, declaring their presence to be oppressive. One question: How would you feel if you were the student being protected in the photo above? Chesterfield County Police Chief Jeffery Katz released the image of SRO Anthony Bowen using his body “to shield a young man from a mob attacking a student.” Bowen was struck several times in the process. Praising the officer for his selflessness, Katz said he remains committed to keeping Chesterfield school children safe.

Follow up question: Is this mayhem routine in Virginia schools, or are fights and violence worse this year? The Chesterfield brawl follows the school shooting in Newport News. One parent quoted by the TV station said, “It’s scary nowadays. I’ve lived across the street for six years. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’ve never seen so many police here.”

That may be anecdotal. But if you collect enough anecdotes, you may have a trend.

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18 responses to “In Praise of School Resource Officers”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    So two of the interesting arguments about SROs is:

    1. – who should pay for them – the schools or the county?

    2. – who should the SROs report to – the schools or the Sheriff?

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        I tried to post one of the videos off Facebook. See it and you see a violent criminal assault, not a “discipline problem.” Cop truly did take a beating trying to protect someone.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        So they ARE full-fledged cops on-site? Where else do we do this? Courts? Prisons?

        So the schools are that vulnerable to “crime”?

        Why don’t we have “High Crime Area” resource officers? (stationed on-site?)


        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          We’ve done it for a long time. Cops in schools dates to the 1950s. It doesn’t take much imagination to determine which schools it started with and why.

          1. Yes. Flint Michigan in the late 1950s. However, until the early 1990s, only about 1% of school systems in the country had police officers/resource officers assigned to their schools.

            It was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, often called the Clinton Crime Bill or the Biden Crime Bill, which opened the federal funding floodgates that allowed SRO programs to be created and expanded on a broad, nationwide scale. It passed with near-total bipartisan support* and the programs it created have been operating with a fluctuating budget of federal tax dollars ever since.

            *The Senate vote was 95-4-1, with two republican nays, two democrat nays, and one democrat not voting.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Law of Unintended Consequences. What seems brilliant in theory often ain’t in practice. There is a reason why, circa 1970, there was a call for “Pigs off campus”.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Singing the praises of the SRO program based on examples of heroic actions is like evaluating the need for war based on the medals for valor doled out.

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Soooo, one phone recorded this. You can see another student holding a phone to record in the line of sight. Is creating video to share the actual motivation for these fights? Certainly it seems to be added incentive (and of course the fools are creating evidence.)

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Could be. Social media is sometimes social motive.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    There is the video. All the kids at the school have surely seen it by now.

  5. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    I know at Briar Woods the Loudoun County deputy assigned to the school was invaluable. He does a great job of building relationships with students. Particularly the ones that might need his law attention one day. A real pro and bridge builder. The Fauquier deputy across the street at Warrenton Middle School is the same way. Deputy Stribling knows so many of those kids by name. Very positive figure and roll model.

    1. Stribling. Now there’s a common Fauquier County surname.

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The examples cited by James Whitehead exhibit the proper role of school resource officers–protecting the schools from outsiders, intervening to prevent or break up fights, and providing a bridge between students and law enforcement. Schools using SROs to enforce school behavior policies, such as following directions or texting in class, however, results in turning behavior problems into criminal issues and should be avoided.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      It doesn’t take long for simple defiance to escalate for the need of an SRO. I don’t get it but that is where we are as a society and culture.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’d posit that SROs are also essentially Community-based policing, and that model could work in other places like low-income communities with crime issues.

    One of the differences is that SROs are on site, known by the population, and build relationships that then actually enable the SROs to be more effective in dealing with those that need police in house at times.

    If this was done similarly with low-income/high-crime communities, it may well be just as effective and beneficial and better than more impersonal police patrols staffed by officers the folks in those communities don’t know and don’t have relationships with. In other words – a better model of Community-based policing.

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