Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Appendix: Resources for Developing Operational Procedures for SRO Programs

The following documents are useful resources for school safety partnerships:

  • The United Kingdom report Mainstreaming Safer School Partnerships is an excellent comprehensive source for planning a school safety initiative. It provides detailed strategic planning guidance and program development materials, including memoranda of understanding.48
  • The COPS Office publication, A Guide to Developing, Maintaining, and Succeeding with Your School Resource Officer Program, provides an extensive list of operational areas and school responsibilities.49
  • The COPS Office publication, SRO Performance Evaluation: A Guide to Getting Results provides a step-by-step guide to help law enforcement and school personnel use SRO effectively, addressing many of the issues discussed in this guide.50
  • The COPS Office software program, School COP. See Guide to Using School COP to Address Student Discipline Problems.51 School COP is designed to enable personnel to record and store detailed information about incidents involving student misconduct and criminal activity.
  • The COPS Office publication, Guide 5: Fostering School-Law Enforcement Partnerships of the Safe and Secure: Guides to Creating Safer Schools, provides detailed operational guidelines for SRO programs. A sample of this information follows.52

Whereas the memoranda of understanding (MOU) is the interagency agreement establishing the framework for the school–law enforcement partnership, the standard operational procedures for a SRO program are typically developed by the law enforcement agency that employs the SRO with consultation from the school division. The procedures should address a broad range of operational issues. Examples of key operational areas and issues to be addressed in the procedures follows.

Conditions of employment and chain of command:

  • Law enforcement agency has authority to hire, assign, and train SRO
  • Law enforcement agency provides salary and employment benefits
  • SRO is employee of the law enforcement agency and follows agency policies/procedures and chain of command
  • SRO coordinates and communicates with principal/designee to which assigned
  • School leadership is given a voice in assignment of SRO to ensure a "good fit" at the school.

Duty hours and uniform:

  • Duty hours are consistent with agency policy.
  • Arrival and departure times are established to provide coverage throughout the school day including peak arrival and departure times. For situations where a single SRO is shared by two or more schools, coordination between schools is necessary to provide maximum coverage for each school.
  • After-hour duties may be performed but must be remunerated by the school or other sponsoring organization at a standard rate established by the law enforcement agency.
  • Time spent in court, attending interagency meetings, and investigating school-related crimes are within the scope of SRO duties and are considered duty hours.
  • SRO shall wear a regulation uniform during the assignment unless otherwise authorized for a specific purpose; the uniform is an important element in providing a visible deterrence to crime.

Communications:

  • SRO shall meet at least weekly with the principal for purposes of exchanging information about current crimes, problem areas, or other concerns that may cause disruption in the school or community.
  • SRO shall be advised of all investigations that involve students from his/her assigned school and other police activities related to the school.
  • The SRO supervisor shall meet at least once each semester with the school principal. Upon request, the school shall provide information to the department to assist in the personnel evaluation of the assigned SRO.

Police investigation and questioning:

  • The SRO has authority to stop, question, interview, and take police action without prior authorization of the principal.
  • The investigation and questioning of students during school hours and at school events shall be limited to situations where the investigation is related to the school or where delay might result in danger to any person or flight from the jurisdiction.
  • The principal shall be notified as soon as practical of any significant enforcement events.
  • The SRO shall coordinate activities to be in the best interests of the school and public safety.

Arrest:

  • The arrest of a student or employee of the school with a warrant or petition should be coordinated through the principal and accomplished after school hours whenever practical.
  • Persons whose presence on school grounds has been restricted or forbidden or whose presence is in violation of the law shall be arrested for trespassing.
  • Arrest of students or staff during school hours or on school grounds shall be reported to the principal as soon as practical.

Search and seizure:

  • School officials may conduct searches of student property and persons under their jurisdiction when reasonable suspicion exists that the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school.
  • The standard for the search is reasonable suspicion.
  • Any search by a law enforcement officer shall be based on probable cause and, when required, a search warrant should be obtained.
  • "Stop and frisk" will remain an option when there is reasonable suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed or may be committed.
  • The SRO shall not become involved in administrative (school-related) searches unless specifically requested by the school to provide security or protection, or for the handling of contraband.
  • At no time shall the SRO request that an administrative search be conducted for law enforcement purposes or have the administrator act as his/her agent.

Release of student information:

State statutes also must be considered. Each agency group interested in establishing this type of network will need to identify state laws that govern the collection, use, and dissemination of juvenile records by juvenile justice and other juvenile-related agencies. Specifically, these laws will include but may not be limited to those governing law enforcement records, school records (a state-level codification of FERPA), juvenile court records (legal and social), child protective services and other youth-serving agency records, and mental health records.