The ACLU and other liberal organizations typically oppose the placement of police officers, commonly known as School Resource Officers, in public schools.
They claim that doing so effectively installs a “school-to-prison pipeline,” and leads to “students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school.”
However, a 2016 report authored by Richard Johnson of the Dolan Consulting Group, a now-retired Ph.D. in criminal justice and a veteran with an impressive military career — including experience as a military police officer — debunks that narrative.
In his report, he discussed a thorough, extensive 2009 study of the issue conducted by researchers from the University of Tennessee.
The 2009 study, he wrote,”suggest[s] that SROs, although they are exposed to more student criminal and misconduct situations than are patrol officers, arrest students at equal rates as patrol officers.”
He continued, “The evidence in this study also suggest that when SROs do arrest students, they tended to downgrade the severity of the charges against the student to disorderly conduct rather than an assault or felony charge.”
Johnson also cited a 2016 study from researchers at the University of Mississippi, which suggested that “most SROs act no differently than other officers when it comes to felony crimes. It also suggested that SROs are more lenient than are patrol officers when encountering misdemeanor and status offenses.”
U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, is also an advocate of SROs.
In a commentary piece for The Baltimore Sun published Friday, he wrote, “It’s true that an SRO won’t stop every school shooting — in fact, there was one on duty in Parkland on Wednesday. But we will never know how many shootings these officers will prevent.”
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He went on to extol the many added benefits of SROs in public high schools. “SROs don’t just provide physical protection for students from outsiders and each other. They also help to identify bullies in the classroom and online,” he said.
Furthermore, he pointed out, “They are intelligence officers for the precincts where they work: SROs are the first officers their colleagues go to if a crime appears to be juvenile-oriented. In Baltimore County, SROs have helped to solve crimes ranging from homicides to destruction of property.”
Ruppersberger also cited a recent incident at Lock Raven High, a Baltimore-area school, in which an SRO received a tip about and subsequently apprehended a student who had brought a gun to school.
The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun that strongly resembled a genuine firearm.
“Perhaps the student at Loch Raven High brought a pellet gun to school this week as a cry for help. Thanks to an alert SRO, he may get it before he becomes the next Nikolas Cruz and before Loch Raven becomes the next Parkland,” he wrote. “That alone is worth every dollar spent on the program.”
Perhaps the ACLU should heed the evidence presented and stop opposing common-sense solutions to the problem of violence in America’s schools.
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