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School Resource Officers (SROs)

The most common solution to Active Shooter event is to place a School Resource Officer (SRO) in every school. Most schools in the United States do not have SROs in every school and some schools share a single SRO. Each jurisdiction addresses this matter and eventually the discussion turns to continuing costs.

Mr. Mo Canady, Executive Director of the Nation Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) was interviewed with his comments appearing in an article in Security Management magazine, January 2017, page 74. I found the short article enlightening on the wide range of duties of the SRO. Here are three “pulled quotes” from that article:

“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. 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’ve 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.”

SROs are a great addition to school’s efforts to educate and maintain internal security at the school. I will address each of these three questions with my experience and observations. The SRO program has developed to get the greatest overall value to the school systems and should be commended.

The first question addresses the “additional duties” of the SROs, and while not specifically mentioned, the primary/first/most important duty is security of the school. Also, the “not mentioned” result is just the presence of an SRO will have some deterrence which it also a good thing. I think most people envision the SROs “ are there to provide security at all times; meaning the SRO is singly focused on security from outside and inside the school.” Any additional duty other than active security surveillance of the school grounds reduces the SRO’s ability to intercede immediately. The last point is if the threat knows there is an SRO on site, then the tactically essential first act is to neutralize the SRO; resulting in the first shot or sound of the first shot, being directed at the SRO.

The statement in the second question is the strongest endorsement for SROs, and in all my years with law enforcement, is the true and professional mindset of today’s law enforcement officers.

The third question generates a couple of points of consideration. When security is interrupted or distracted from 100% security focus, then one is hoping or gambling that the threat will not appear during the distraction. When security is 100% focused on security, the threat is seen as soon as possible and the response/reaction is initiated immediately, trying to intercept or foil the threat’s entry or intentions. If the threat is internal to the school (someone currently enrolled in the school) then the relationship building can pay big dividends. If the threat is from outside the school, then 100% security focus pays the biggest dividends. The best solution is to have two or more SROs in each school, with one SRO always focused on security, because man in the loop has the greatest ability to adjust to any situation or any changing situation. As mentioned earlier, costs may be prohibitive to achieve this highest security level.

In any event, relying solely on the SRO to protect everyone in the school from an external or internal threat is banking that everything goes as you planned it and nothing unplanned occurs. Additional safety and security measures need to be incorporated as part of a multi-layer defensive posture.

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