Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), discusses the security implications of an SRO’s role in today’s educational environment.
Q. What are school resource officers (SROs) and what are some of their job functions?
A. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers assigned by their employing law enforcement agency to work with schools. They go into the classroom with a diverse curriculum in legal education. They aid in teaching students about the legal system and helping to promote an awareness of rules, authority, and justice. Outside of the classroom, SROs are mentoring students and engaging with them in a variety of positive ways.
Q. What are some of the standards and best practices your organization teaches?
A. There are three important things that need to happen for an SRO program to be successful. Number one, the officers must be properly selected. Number two, they have to be properly trained. And thirdly, it has to be a collaborative effort between the law enforcement agency and the school district. This can’t just be a haphazard approach of, “We have a drug problem; let’s put some police officers in there and try to combat it.” It needs to be a community-based policing approach.
Q. Some SROs have come under fire for being too aggressive in the classroom. What’s your take?
A. There have been a handful of incidents that have played out in the media. But, it is up to the investigating agency to determine right and wrong. I’ve been very happy with the fact that the majority of those officers involved in these incidents have not been trained by us.
Q. How does NASRO train officers to deal with potential threats?
A. In our training, we certainly talk about lockdown procedures and possible responses to active shooter situations, but we don’t get too detailed. It’s really up to each agency to make those kinds of decisions. In the case of an active shooter, I don’t believe most SROs are going to wait for additional backup to get there. Most of them are so bought into their schools and their relationships with their students, that if they hear gunfire, they’re going to go try to stop whatever is happening.
Q. Do SROs consider themselves security officers?
A. We’re engaged in security and it’s a big part of what we do—but it’s just one piece of what we do. Sometimes when people think about physical security, the idea of relationship building doesn’t necessarily come in there, and yet it’s the lead thing for us. We know that through those relationships, if we’re building them the right way, we may get extremely valuable information from students, parents, faculty, and staff. It’s what leads to SROs in many cases being able to head off bad situations before they happen.