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The Immediate First Responder

Updated February 2014
By Becky Lewis

School resource officers (SROs) are more than just police officers assigned full time to a school: They are the immediate first responders to any incidents that happen on campus.

“The SRO is always the immediate first responder to any and all incidents that happen on campus,” says Kevin Quinn, president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). “That’s a very critical aspect of the job. There’s no response time, because we’re already here. In the time it would take somebody in the office to pick up a phone, call 911 and tell a dispatcher, who would then relay that information to an officer who isn’t familiar with the campus, I would have already walked down the hall and been on the scene.”

SROs play two other key roles in addition to covering their beats at the school. They visit classrooms and make presentations on school safety, traffic laws, general law and crime prevention; and they confer with students, parents and family members on legal problems and crime prevention.

NASRO, founded in 1991, provides training and other resources to help SROs perform all of those roles better. With more than 3,000 members around the world, the association offers basic and advanced training for SROs and managers, as well as specialized training in legal issues affecting school safety. Quinn says that in 2013, the number of requests for training doubled compared to 2012, with 2,000 officers receiving training in 2013.

“Right before the tragedy at Sandy Hook, we had launched a major revision to our advanced curriculum, and we’re in the process of rewriting the basic one,” says Quinn, adding that the new basic training will be implemented in summer 2014. Officers who have already taken the basic course would not necessarily benefit from repeating the revised session, but those who took advanced training several years ago might consider participating in the new iteration.

“The previous version of the training often focused on the first-hand knowledge of a particular instructor, but the new version features an intense curriculum written by nationally recognized subject-matter experts,” Quinn says. “We added a lot of new and updated information on technology, put in new information on legal issues, threat assessment and incident command, and implemented an entirely new block on social media.” 

That new social media blocks focuses on remaining aware and up to date on the constantly evolving applications students use to communicate with each other while hiding that communication from parents and teachers. In addition to the new training, a social media block has been added to the agenda of presentations at the annual NASRO conference, and members can also learn about social media and other developing trends in the field through the association’s quarterly Journal of School Safety. And members and non-members alike can download the 2012 report To Protect and Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools (http://www.nasro.org/sites/default/files/pdf_files/NASRO_Protect_and_Educate.pdf)

from the NASRO website. This report focuses on explaining the role that SROs play in supporting educational objectives while helping to keep schools safer, all as part of a team approach involving collaboration among law enforcement and school administration.

“Our executive director, Mo Canady, spends a lot of time trying to get the school safety message out to the different states and in Washington, D.C. The COPS [Community Oriented Policing Services] Office funded a number of jurisdictions to hire SROs in 2013, and every officer funded under that grant will receive NASRO training paid for by the COPS Office,” Quinn says. “This guarantees that all of those officers receive proper training.” (The COPS Office awarded approximately $127 million in 266 grants as part of the FY 2013 COPS Hiring Program, with priority given to jurisdictions planning to hire SROs.)

 “I wish the Sandy Hook shooting never happened and very few people knew that we existed,” says Quinn, who wrote an opinion piece for CNN as part of a special series on school safety that ran in mid-January 2013 (http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/17/my-view-more-school-resource-officers-more-safe-school-communities/?hpt=hp_bn1). “Since it did happen, we want SROs and law enforcement agencies everywhere to know what we are all about and that we’re here to help.”

For more information on NASRO, its trainings and its annual conference, visit the NASRO website at http://www.nasro.org or call (888) 316–2776.