School resource officers (SROs) are police officers who work in elementary, middle, and high schools. They collaborate with school administrators, security staff, and faculty to ensure schools are safe places for students to learn.
SROs are not meant to be an armed security presence, scaring kids into behaving, but rather educators, informal counselors, and law enforcement officers, who are part of the schools in which they serve. At each school, the SRO becomes a dependable, appreciated member of the administration who kids look to for advice, support, and safety.
In an effort to better understand exactly what SROs do and why they are important, Guard911® spoke with Sheriff John Cottle, who presides over one of the largest, most rural districts in Missouri. He has SROs in several of his schools and believes they are instrumental in the lives of the children they protect. Here’s what he had to say about his SROs.
How SROs Work & How They Help in Emergencies
Guard911: Please explain how the SROs in your district work and how they help in emergencies.
Sheriff Cottle: Our SROs are part of the schools they serve. They wear downgraded, casual uniforms and interact with kids all day long, in various capacities. They are seen by the kids as positive role models who help with day-to-day administration and education during regular school hours, after school, and at off-campus school activities. They will often join classes like Shop or P.E. to offer a helping hand. One of our officers has a police dog, who the kids love and look forward to seeing.
Our SROs’ main goal is to keep children safe. In a rural district that has over 6500 students and 900 staff spread out over thirteen schools and 238 square miles, having an on-site law enforcement officer who can help in any emergency right away can literally be the difference between life and death.
911 in our district is rarely, if ever, called by a school. My closest estimation is that our SROs eliminate 200+ calls a year to 911. Additionally, some of our schools are in very rural towns without police and/or fire departments – their school resource officer IS their police department. They provide an immediate response to any school-related emergency, with zero wait time.
“An SRO is part of the school. He or she will interact with kids, help in various classes, sports, after-school events, even summer camp. It’s an incredibly positive relationship and one the kids really enjoy. SROs are PART OF THE SCHOOL, not considered outsiders” – Sheriff Cottle
Guard911: Who pays for the SROs in your district and how much do they cost?
Sheriff Cottle: It is different in every district, but since we began the program in the 2000-2001 school year, I have paid for our SROs out of my budget. The price has not changed in 20 years – it works out to $191 day, per officer. That’s a small price to pay to keep our children safe.
#1 Reason to Have SROs
Guard911: Can you tell us the number one reason to have SROs in our nation’s schools?
Sheriff Cottle: SROs stop any threat that may occur and act as a crime and violence deterrent. They gather a large amount of intelligence from kids who have no problem telling the SRO if something is up, whether it’s about drugs or fighting or violence of any kind. They can do this in conversation without it being obvious or looking like a snitch. SROs can also see if something appears suspicious and keep an eye out for developments.
This open communication creates a safe, non-threatening school environment. If the SRO were not there, there is no way a kid would call the police on his or her own or be seen going to the administrator’s office to report something.
SROs also have dogs, who the kids love and will stop and pet. The dogs really help the kids enjoy their presence. Also, dogs walking down the hall can smell drugs.
And, of course, the thing none of us like to think about, but one of the biggest threats to our children today is school shooters. If a shooter were to get into the school, the SRO is trained to handle active shooter situations, stop the shooter as fast as possible, and triage anyone who may be injured. Nobody from the outside can be there as fast as an SRO. Period.
“Homicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and nationwide, 15.7 percent of students carried a weapon (e.g., gun, knife, or club) on at least one day in the past month.” – Federal Commission on School Safety Report
Guard911: With the knee-jerk reaction taking place to get rid of SROs, what would you say to schools who have done this or are considering this?
Sheriff Cottle: Getting rid of SROs is a very bad decision. Stop and think about the kids and what you’re doing by taking them away. If there is no SRO, it makes your school extremely vulnerable to those who intend to do harm. All the security procedures in the world cannot replace the proactive intelligence that the SROs are gathering to stop attacks BEFORE they happen. Not having an SRO also removes the benefit of faster medical help.
“One of the things the public doesn’t see is how many SROs stop [active shooters] before a round is ever fired. Through building relationships with students, SROs gain valuable intelligence and are able to investigate and stop these things before they ever become an issue.” – Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO)
Why Your School Should Have an SRO
In 2018, as part of the Final Report of The Federal Commission on School Safety, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center published Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model: An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence.
It notes the following: “[e]nsuring the safety of our schools involves multiple components, including physical security, emergency management, and violence prevention efforts in the form of a threat assessment process. This process begins with establishing a comprehensive targeted violence prevention plan.”
According to the An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence, that plan should:
- Establish a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team.
- Define behaviors to include those that are prohibitive and concerning.
- Establish and provide training on a central reporting system.
- Determine the threshold for law enforcement intervention.
- Establish replicable threat assessment procedures.
- Develop risk management options.
- Create and promote a safe school climate.
- Provide training for all stakeholders.
The report states, “There is no doubt planning and training helps prepare police officers and first responders to deal with active shooters. However, because active shooter incidents are often over before law enforcement arrives on the scene, onsite personnel must be prepared to deal with an active shooter attack in the absence of trained crisis response officers.”
Officially trained SROs can assist with steps 1-8 and are best equipped to assess potential threats before they become incidents, manage active shooter situations, and save lives.
“The importance of suspicious activity reporting and the establishment of threat assessments has been a common theme identified in the wake of past school shootings.” – Federal Commission on School Safety Report
Panic Button Technology Assists SROs
It is important to note, SROs are not in every one of Sheriff Cottle’s schools. In a school district that covers hundreds of miles, operates 82 buses, and has multiple school buildings, this rural district also relies on SchoolGuard® panic button technology.
In the event of an active shooter or medical emergency, with the touch of a smartphone screen, SchoolGuard instantly speed-dials 911 without a call ever having to be made. It also provides school administrators across campus immediate, accurate information and the details necessary to make informed decisions.
And, unlike any other panic button technology, SchoolGuard automatically alerts the nearest law enforcement officers who are in the Hero911® network, so they can be at the school as fast as possible – usually faster than those dispatched through 911.
“The ability to communicate quickly and effectively often is central to a successful response to an active shooter incident.” – Federal Commission on School Safety Report
SROs Are Effective at Keeping Children Safe
Is your school doing everything it can to protect students and staff? SROs, in conjunction with SchoolGuard, is a smart, affordable combination that puts children’s safety first so they can focus on learning. If you have questions about SROs or how to implement SchoolGuard, please reach out to our helpful team for information or a free panic button demonstration. 618-973-9174