School-based police officers are paid to protect our kids. But sometimes they do more harm than good
Protecting Or Policing?” is the third in a series of stories about police in schools.
ANAHEIM, Calif. – In the sweltering days of July, tensions between police and civilians were running high. A cop fatally shot Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, setting off a week of protests. Another police officer fatally shot Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, while his fiance and her 4-year-old daughter watched. A sniper shot and killed five police officers in Dallas.
But inside a Disneyland convention center in Anaheim, California, almost 700 law enforcement officers and security personnel were learning how to be role models in schools across the country. While families rode rollercoasters and met characters outside, school cops at the National Association of School Resource Officers’ annual conference spent a week attending panels about topics like active-shooter situations and potential terrorist threats. At night they sang karaoke, explored the amusement park and bonded over keeping our nation’s children safe.
These law enforcement agents, most commonly known as school resource officers, belong to a sector of law enforcement that has grown considerably since the 1990s. They often take on the role of mentoring and counseling — not just protecting — students, many told The Huffington Post during the conference.
Mo Canady, the executive director of NASRO, said this is important because kids who grow up having positive experiences with cops will hopefully maintain these impressions as adults.
Any school that doesn’t have a police officer trained by NASRO, “doesn’t yet know what they’re missing,” he said, while sitting in a Disneyland conference center lobby. “What we’re doing in schools should hopefully transition out into the community.”