Police in Schools
Three models of involvement are identified although there is considerable overlap: school-based police officer programmes, police as ‘educators’, and comprehensive or broad-based liaison programmes.
Police-school programmes represent a range of unstructured and structured programmes with varying combinations of pro-active and reactive approaches, and prevention, intervention, enforcement and deterrent objectives, and short and long-term goals. They include bi-lateral initiatives, which work exclusively with schools, and multi-lateral initiatives in which the police are one of a wider range of partners.
Many initiatives see themselves as part of a community policing approach, which is primarily pro-active and preventive. Such programmes can help to create better attitudes and relationships between young people and police working in schools, which can be seen as an important prevention strategy in itself. However, these attitudes may not always be transferred to other police.
Some interventions, such as those which are primarily deterrent or investigative, may be very effective in the short term in reducing incidents of drug trafficking or violence, but raise concerns about their negative impact on students’ attitudes, their long-term ability to deal with the problems facing at-risk students, and their infringement of the rights of children and young people.
Police involvement as educators, particularly using structured courses to reduce drugs, violence or gang involvement, are very popular with police and education authorities, parents and students, but not necessarily effective in their long-term ability to change attitudes and behaviour. Part of the problem may lie not with the programmes themselves, but their inability to deal with the broader problems and police response policies in the surrounding community.
Co-operation between the police and schools would appear to be particularly constructive when the police form part of a broader comprehensive programme or multi-partnership network. The third model of police-schools co-operation, involving comprehensive or multi-partnership liaison projects generally provide a strategic and integrated series of responses to safety and security issues in schools and their surrounding communities. This allows for a balancing of police expertise and contributions with that of other specialists.
The weakest aspect of many police-school programmes is evaluation. Many programmes appear to ‘take for granted’ their benefits and outcomes. In other cases there has been widespread adoption of models which, while very popular, do not achieve their stated outcomes and cannot provide cost benefits.
Future work in this area might include:
- A more comprehensive comparative review of police-school interventions.
- The systematic collection and documentation of good practice models and tools.
- A review of protocols and guidance for police-school interventions at municipal, regional or national levels.
- Assessing the long-term impact of investigative and deterrent police involvement on relationships with young people, and how this can be balanced with the rights of students and staff, and long-term prevention.
- Assessing the impact of zero tolerance policies on police-school relations and pro-active prevention.
- Assessing the extent and role of private security in schools.
- Assessing the experiences and challenges of working in multi-agency partnerships and linking police-school initiatives into comprehensive community crime prevention strategies.
- Development of an exchange of experiences or joint projects between schools, school boards, police services and municipalities in different cities.
This brief report provides a preliminary overview of a some of these practices and programmes involving police and schools in a number of countries. It is far from complete.