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Role of Law Enforcement in Public School Safety: A National Survey

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2005
258 pages
Based on findings from a national survey of schools and law enforcement agencies, this report identifies the range of roles played by law enforcement agencies and personnel in school security and the factors related to these roles.
Using the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data, researchers selected a representative sample of schools (n=3,156). Surveys were mailed to school principals, yielding a response rate of 44.7 percent. Using information from the school surveys, researchers also sent surveys to the law enforcement agencies serving those schools, yielding a 75.6 percent response rate. Site visits attempted to produce a representative sample of schools based on region, urbanism, and school level. Only schools for which there was a police response to the survey were eligible for site visits. The vast majority of school principals reported that they relied primarily on public law enforcement rather than private security, and almost half reported that they had school resource officers. Reasons for having a school resource officer included national media attention to school violence, crime prevention, Federal grants, drug awareness education, mentoring, and as part of community policing efforts. Principals tended to perceive police as involved in traditional law enforcement functions such as patrolling school grounds, school facilities, and surrounding neighborhoods. Primary law enforcement officers were most likely to teach antidrug classes, safety education classes, and alcohol awareness/drunk-driving prevention. A variety of safety plans and meetings with school personnel were common. Generally, school principals and police officials had significantly different perceptions of the types of activities in which law enforcement was involved. A higher percentage of police respondents than school principals perceived that police were more involved in law enforcement, advising/mentoring with staff, advising/mentoring with groups, advising/mentoring with students or families, and a presence at school events. Extensive tabular data, 32 references, and appended questionnaires

Date Published: July 1, 2005