Where it all began
In the early 1950’s, public opinion of law enforcement began to decline and there was a rise in juvenile offenders. In response to the issue, the town of Flint, Michigan in 1953 decided to place a full-time law enforcement officer in the schools to help with community relations. After a few years, a trend began to emerge. A drop in juvenile crimes and a rise in positive community relations. The concept did not catch on in other states until the 1970’s when other states began to look for ways to improve Law Enforcement and youth relations. In 1973, the federal government began to see the benefits of having positive interaction with youth. Using Flint, Michigan’s as a reference, the Federal government began to prompt the use of a sworn uniform law enforcement officer in schools, even going as far as providing grants to agencies to get programs started.
Lincoln County and SRO
Lincoln County did not place sworn uniformed law enforcement officers in schools until 1997. Deputy S. Baxter at WLHS, Deputy D. Norwood at ELHS, and Deputy W. Vaughn at LHS were the first SRO’s in Lincoln County. North Lincoln High School was assigned an officer when it opened in 2003 and a Lincolnton Police Officer was assigned to Lincolnton High School due to it being within the city limits. In 2017, SROs were assigned to NLMS, ELMS, WLMS, LMS, and both Lincoln Charter campuses. In 2018, the SRO’s were removed from distract divisions and placed into their own division under one supervisor.
The Role of a School Resource Officer
The mission of the SRO program is to (1) ensure the safety and security of the school, (2) build positive relationships with students and staff to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, and (3) to reduce juvenile delinquency. In that order.
In basic school resource officer school in North Carolina, we are taught the Basic Triade Concept, which breaks down our responsibilities into the 3 different roles that we play at the school, which help us complete our mission. The Law Enforcement Officer, the Teacher, and the Counselor. A good SRO will need all of these roles to support their staff and students. Without using all of these roles, there is no way to accomplish our mission. Each SRO must determine for themselves how much of each role to step into based on their school environment.
- The Law Enforcement Officer
An SRO is Foremost a Law Enforcement Officer. We wear a uniform, a badge, a gun, and other equipment. We are responsible and are given some of the tools to make sure the school is a safe place for our students and staff. We also handle any law violations that occur on our school campus. North Carolinas Department of Juvenile Justice takes a proactive approach to assisting us in dealing with law violations. They have many options to help assist us in correcting the underlining problem which is causing the violations.
- The Teacher
An SRO teaches while in the building. This teaching can be one on one, or the whole student body. It also varies in subject matter depending on the needs of the situation. The criminal justice system, laws, law enforcement, substance abuse, and safety issues are what most people think of when they think of officers teaching, but it can also be Math (Crime Scene math, Traffic Collision math, etc.), English (report writing, critical thinking, etc.), Social Studies (Bill of rights, Civics, Probation, etc.), or Science (forensics, investigative process, etc.).
An SRO is a resource for the school to help point people in the right direction for local resources. SROs have training in what local programs and services are available and what criteria is needed to use them. They also can be an ear to listen when a student or staff member just needs to vent and an actual school counselor is not available at the moment.