Although the placement of law enforcement officers or school resource officers (SROs) is widespread and costly, little is known about its effectiveness in preventing school crime and violence or the extent to which the presence of SROs may harm students, such as facilitating the formal processing of minor offenses. The proposed study will examine the: (1) effects of an increase in SROs on schools, communities, and students; and (2) the conditions under which those effects are most likely to occur.
The 3-year study will gather and analyze data on public middle and high schools in California and Florida that received additional SROs through the 2013 Department of Justice's COPS Hiring Program (CHP) (~100 treatment schools) and on matched schools that neither received SROs funded by CHP grants nor added SROs at the same time as treatment schools (~100 comparison schools). California and Florida received a 'critical mass' of funding for SROs, have sufficient administrative data systems to support the planned analyses, and agreed to work with the study team.
To examine the effects of increased use of SROs on schools, communities, and students, the study will implement an interrupted time series (ITS) design with a comparison series on key outcome measures within states. The data support analyses to assess the overall effects of SROs, and how those effects vary by student (e.g., race/ethnicity), community, and school characteristics, as well as by SRO approach and dose.
The core data will consist of administrative data from state education agencies and local law enforcement agencies. The proposed study will also collect self-report data from CHP grantee and local law enforcement agency staff, school administrators, and SROs. Finally, the team will implement a validity study to examine whether the reporting of disciplinary incidents is affected by the increased presence of SROs (16 schools, ~200 students per school).
This study will enhance the evidence base on the effectiveness of SROs, inform criminal justice policy and practice to increase school safety, and gauge whether the concerns about the increased presence of SROs are warranted. To disseminate the findings of this study, the team plans to present at annual professional association meetings and submit several publishable papers to peer-reviewed journals. The study team is committed to disseminating the findings to researchers, school administrators, lawenforcement agency staff, and other practitioners, as appropriate.