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By John Rosiak, Principal, Prevention Partnerships, Rosiak Associates, LLC
t a recent training workshop on the subject of â€œHow to Strengthen Your School-Law Enforcement Partnershipâ€? I introduced the topic of how School Resource Officers (SROs) track or document their activities as SROs. One long-time SRO in the audience caught me by surprise when he blurted out, â€œWe donâ€™t have to track what we do.â€? I asked what he meant by that. Before he could answer, his colleague chimed in, â€œHeâ€™s retiring next weekâ€? implying that he didnâ€™t have to worry about such things. But the long-timer proceeded to try to make a case that because SROs do so many things, it simply took too much time to document them. No one from any of the law enforcement-school teams present agreed with that SROâ€™s view, and I certainly didnâ€™t either. Tracking SRO activities is probably more essential today than it has ever been. A recent posting to NASROâ€™s listserv confirmed that SROs are looking for tools to document their work. These tools are important because, as 11-year veteran SRO John Smith of Amherst, NH puts it, â€œA lot of what we do as SROs is unknown by the rest of the world, including officers back at the station.â€? Letâ€™s look at why it is important for SROs to track what they do.
Tracking SRO activities:
í˘ą Helps assess how SROs spend their time. SROs carry out a variety of functions, especially the triad functions of educator; informal counselor/mentor; and law enforcement officer. But as Mike Anderson, former SRO and current Deputy Director of North Carolinaâ€™s Department of Safer Schools has observed, â€œSo many departments do not really have good measurement tools to track the triad functions of SROs.â€? Some SRO program leaders have expressed frustration with the existing activity logs they have because they include only enforcement activities. These logs do not include the â€œpreventionâ€? activities SROs carry out. This frustration had led to the development of other tools to track what SROs do. Keeping track of what SROs do enables them to take a step back and analyze the proportion of time spent doing each function. Many SROs find that they, in fact, spend the majority of their time each day building relationships with students by serving as an informal counselor or mentor. Documenting this helps the officersâ€”as well as school administrators and othersâ€”understand their â€œcounselingâ€? contribution to their school. Tracking activities can also help the SRO recognize that he or she may need to spend a greater portion of time on
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"Performance measures for SROs have to be different from the measures used by other law enforcement officers. Performance measures for SROs should be focused on what the school-community partnership wants from its SROs." other functions like educating students, staff, and parents about contemporary legal or safety issues, or supporting the schoolâ€™s safety mission by carrying out Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) surveys, or coordinating table top drills for crisis preparedness. Helping SROs track their activities is crucial from a management and evaluation perspective. Former SRO and now retired police chief Hassan Aden points out that the managerial accounting phrase, â€œYou get what you measureâ€? applies to documenting SRO work. In other words, if we seek to measure particular functions, we will be more likely to achieve them. The Task Force on 21st Century Policing calls for officers to exhibit the â€œguardianâ€? rather than the â€œwarriorâ€? mentality in their work. To that end, SRO measures must identify those â€œguardianâ€? activities that help â€œbuild trust and legitimacyâ€? with the communityâ€”one of the pillars of the Task Force on 21st Century Policingâ€”by employing actions like mediations, informal counseling, and referrals to mental health providers. Identifying and tracking these tasks will increase the likelihood they are carried out.
í˘˛ Provides transparency. Law enforcement officials need to establish internal procedures for what officers do. When a law enforcement agency is transparent about their SRO procedures, the public better understands the role and purpose of SROs in their schools. The public demands and deserves accountability in policing. Letting a community know what the SROs activities are supposed to be, and how well they are carried out is something that can be identified in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the school district and law enforcement agency. SRO Steve Huskey of CaĂąon City, CO points out that â€œone of the first things SRO programs can do is review their MOU or other agreements to see if there are specific job duties defined, and use that information to create a list of activities to be documented.â€? Being guided by such â€œpolicy and oversightâ€? is another of the pillars of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. For example, the MOU between the Bridgeport, CT Police Department and the Public Schools states that the partnership â€œstrives to ensure a consistent response to incidents of student misbehavior, clarify the role of law enforcement in school disciplinary matters, and reduce involvement of police and court agencies for misconduct at school and school-related events.â€? This kind of policy, which lets the community know that â€œSROs will not be responsible for student discipline or enforcement of school rulesâ€Śâ€? necessitates that different kinds of SRO activities be measured, such as â€œdiversionâ€? activities
like referrals to mental health or social service providers at the Juvenile Review Board. Performance measures for SROs have to be different from the measures used by other law enforcement officers. Performance measures for SROs should be focused on what the schoolcommunity partnership wants from its SROs. If measures are limited to counting arrests and issuing tickets, then those measures will drive the officerâ€™s activity. If the community is making a concerted effort to decrease arrests in schools for low-level offenses, then measures like mediation and referrals can be used, and these indicators will rise. Reporting such activities to school and community partners can increase the appreciation and respect people have for SRO work.
í˘ł Makes the case for the value of school-based law enforcement.
At the same training mentioned at the beginning of this article, a seasoned SRO of many years talked about how a local city council member was not a fan of putting law enforcement in schools. But having the data handy that most of the time spent by SROs is on trying to build positive relationships with youth, not make arrests, helped educate policymakers like that city council member about the proactive work that police are doing in the schools. Documenting these proactive activities lessens resistance of community members to the presence of law enforcement in schools by increasing their awareness about the wide range of positive and supportive activities SROs do. According to Hannah Cowells, Juvenile Justice Specialist from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (which constructed a state database described in a future article), collecting such data â€œhelps show the value of SRO programs, which will increase the chances of sustaining these programs.â€? Part 2 of this article will appear in the next issue of JOSS and describe a variety of local tools and statewide databases, and examine things to consider in choosing or developing a tool to measure SRO activity. Send examples of how your SRO program documents its SRO activities to email@example.com. John Rosiak is a safe schools expert, trainer, and facilitator who has worked in a variety of education positions for over 30 years, including directing substance abuse, crime, and violence prevention efforts on the local, national, and international levels.
By John Rosiak, Principal, Prevention Partnerships, Rosiak Associates, LLC n Part 1 of this series of articles we looked at “Why SROs need to track what they do every day.” In summary, documenting SRO activities is essential to an effective school-law enforcement partnership. Tracking SRO activities:
Helps assess how SROs spend their time as they carry out the triad functions of educator; informal counselor/mentor; and law enforcement officer PLUS other roles performed by today’s SRO. Tracking helps the SRO, SRO supervisor and law enforcement command staff, and school leadership examine how the SROs carry out their job, and whether they are doing what they are supposed to do.
Provides transparency because it helps the public to better understand the roles and purposes of the SROs in schools. For example, documenting a broad range of activities, including measures like mediation or referrals to counseling or diversion programs will let the community know that the schoollaw enforcement partnership wants to take a variety of measures to drive down arrests at school.
Makes the case for the value of school-based law enforcement. Documenting the many activities SROs carry out lessens possible resistance of community members by increasing their awareness about the range of positive and supportive activities SROs conduct. 32
a variety of tools exist
So, how do SRO programs track or document what they do? What are some examples of those tools? A sampling of how SROs document their work reveals that a wide diversity exists across the country. Most SRO programs are using a document or tracking system that was developed locally. Some local programs employ “off-the-shelf” programs and adapt them to their situations. In addition, some states have systems they are using or developing. Tools states use will be featured in Part 3 of this series.
locally constructed reporting mechanisms
Many local law enforcement agencies have developed some form of activity log to include a variety of SRO activities. A good example of a tracking tool devised by a local department comes from 9-year veteran SRO, Adam Gongwer (Ontario Schools in Ohio), who uses a weekly planner and spreadsheet. This Excel® file is set up with columns for SRO activities such as: Advising/mentoring or observing students; Meetings with staff/administration; Classroom prep/teaching; Training at the school or police department; Assisting staff; Conducting investigations; Providing warnings; Issuing citations; and Handling violent incidents. The spreadsheet is set up to track each of these activi-
ties by the school where the activity took place, and by the hours/number of activities involved. There is an additional column for notes (for example: Advised student on appropriate texting; Presented law class on fourth amendment—search and seizure; Updated emergency plans). Sgt. Brian Snyder, 9-year SRO supervisor of the School Resource Officer Unit in Hampton,Virginia explains that his department currently measures over two dozen different SRO activities, which complement the different activities of the Officer Friendly program, truancy officer, and K-9 officer. Included in the spreadsheets which are used by each of the 15 SROs, are activities such as intake referrals (which demonstrate how officers are diverting students from justice involvement), hours of training (which helps explain to school administrators why officers are not always present at school because of ongoing training to enhance knowledge and skills), and lockdown practice (which reminds the officers of the need to constantly prepare). The spreadsheet has a field for “significant events,” which allows the SRO to include explanatory comments such as “counseled students on behavior,” “responded to report of suspects with weapons on school grounds,” “meeting with parents of runaway to advise of law and community resources available,” etc. Sgt. Snyder points out that "the unit’s measurements have evolved over the years as new programs and activities, such as the department’s diversion program, have been added." Alhambra, California uses a simple "School Resource Hours" form to document what the SRO does while covering a number of schools in the district. One novel measure is called “visibility,” which refers to the deterrent role of the officer establishing a presence in the vicinity of the school before and after school hours. This category also covers time spent during passing periods in the hallways, and “visibility” in the open quad area during lunch—all of which are done on foot patrol.
how the data is used
Ontario’s spreadsheet is sent weekly to the SRO supervisor, chief of police, and superintendent of schools. This tracking document is also reviewed by the criminal division commander for the purpose of identifying any trends occurring within the school district and community, and determining particular problems that may require new or additional resources. For example, use of this tracking tool resulted in extra patrol during the last week of school when pranks typically increase, and deploying additional officers in campus buildings during certain anniversaries in an effort to prevent copy-cat violence. Analysis of the results revealed increased discipline issues the week before Christmas break and before Spring Break as students become restless each year. The Hampton Police Department compiles the activity reports mentioned above on a monthly basis, which is typical of many SRO programs. Alhambra SRO Manny Araneta explains that their “daily forms are compiled into monthly reports. Documentation may include links to police reports, if such documentation is also warranted, for example, transporting a student to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. The reports also provide data on issues and trends that are occurring in a particular school, or a nearby school; these issues are shared with administrators at monthly meetings held at the schools or the police department.” Alhambra's Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Laurel Bear, believes that the documentation of SRO activities plays a special role in Alhambra's Juvenile Diversion program, saying "it helps the SRO and the school community to be accountable. This joint school-law enforcement process has ensured trust, confidence, and authentic partnership."
sample categories of sro activities
SRO programs include many different activities. The following is a sampling of items compiled from reviewing a variety of activity logs around the U.S.: Educator Classroom teaching (law-related education) Acting as a liaison with school staff, students, parents and other school community members Presentations to staff, parents
Informal Counselor/Mentor Advising/mentoring students Mediations Referrals to other agencies
Law Enforcement/Public Safety Patrol Investigations/incidents/case reports Emergency management (lockdown drills) Security audits Traffic/accidents/parking Threat assessments Arrests After tracking a variety of SRO activities throughout the year, Caisee Sandusky, SRO from the Minot, ND Police Department, compiles a summative annual report. This spreadsheet of different categories (such as theft, assault, domestic, disorderly, accidents, etc.) goes to the school administration, as well as police commanders. According to Sandusky, “Tracking SRO activities has already shown a decrease in incidents since we implemented SROs into our schools 2 years ago.”
adding to your log
A good tracking system can accommodate SRO programs as they grow, mature, and get better. For example, every three years the City of Hampton undergoes a re-certification through the Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services for the “Certified Crime Prevention Community Program.” SRO Supervisor Sgt. Snyder explains that “we adjusted our monthly SRO report to capture the information needed to meet the goals that are set in the state’s elements pertaining to SRO programs.” It is common for law enforcement agencies to change their activity logs as their activities develop. Ontario’s customizable spreadsheet has expanded over the years to include new activities such as documenting safety drills in each building, yearly statistical comparisons, and how many times the SRO sets foot inside a building on campus.
off-the-shelf or online programs
Some SRO programs employ pre-packaged database programs. For example, some SROs use:
Formstack—A cloud-based company that allows the user to take information collected on forms and download it into a spreadsheet for analysis. The Seattle, Washington School Emphasis Officer (SEO) Program uses Formstack to www.nasro.org
"It is common for law enforcement agencies to change their activity logs as their activities develop. Ontario’s customizable spreadsheet has expanded over the years to include new activities such as documenting safety drills in each building, yearly statistical comparisons, and how many times the SRO sets foot inside a building on campus." track SEO activities for its Micro-Community Policing Plan. The data are loaded into Tableau® to present it to the community in graphic fashion, illustrating numbers of home visits, referrals to service providers, and mediations—showing that 75% of SEO time is prevention oriented.
ALEIR—a program designed to work on a local or wide area network that allows for unlimited original and supplemental criminal and non-criminal incident reports to be saved under the original case number.
Evernote—a searchable database that can be accessed from a computer, phone, or tablet, allowing the SRO to make notes or add relevant contacts or incidents for the day.
OneNote—A note-taking app that allows the user to create notes, search them, and sync them with PCs, the Web, and other devices. Notes can be shared so administrators can read and contribute to them.
School COP Software—This free, customizable software application has been used for many years. It allows SROs, school security, or administrators to enter, analyze, and map activities and incidents that occur in and around schools. SRO Nathan Slavin, from Portage, MI has had a positive experience with School COP Software for years, saying it "allows the SRO and school administrators to evaluate any action plans they put into place by providing statistical reports with graphs and charts."
things to consider in choosing or developing a tool
Whether an SRO program is using an existing product, or modifying or constructing a tool to track SRO activities, here are some criteria to consider: Ease of use. Simply put, if the reporting mechanism is burdensome, it will be less likely SROs will use it.
Reporting capability. Law enforcement officers need to make reports and be able to access them. SROs may want this capability in a tracking tool. One factor to consider is a link to police reports.
Ability to grow. Will the system allow the department to add categories, as needed?
Analysis. Tools need to help law enforcement departments and their school partners analyze problem spots, trends, and results of interventions so that the school-based law enforcement work can continuously improve.
Measure what is in your MOU. This principle stems from the fact that the agreement between the school and law enforcement agency—which should spell out the roles/activities of the SRO—should serve as a guide for what the SRO does. This may necessitate amending the MOU, which can be a constructive process because the MOU should be a living document that school-community partners use and continuously update.
SRO programs around the country are using many different tools to document what they do, with a variety of advantages. Consider whether your SRO program might benefit from some of the experiences featured in this article. Please send your examples to: firstname.lastname@example.org
is a safe schools expert, trainer, and facilitator who has worked in a variety of education positions for over 30 years. He has worked with SROs since the mid-1980s.