In the 1970s there were fewer than 100 school police officers nationwide, according to Northeastern University criminology researchers. But with concerns about gang violence, school shootings, and terrorism in the past several decades, their presence has grown exponentially. NASRO estimates there are now about 10,000 SROs, the vast majority of them armed. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants have helped fund these officers.
While SRO programs have proliferated, juvenile arrest records have declined, says Mr. Canady, so he believes concerns about a national school-to-prison pipeline are overblown. (See NASRO’s report on this issue, “To Protect and Educate” at http://www.nasro.org/)
While Canady agrees students are mistreated by police occasionally, he says those examples reflect a tendency by a few urban areas to allow police into schools to operate without proper regard for how to best serve an educational setting.
Hillsborough County, Fla., has already expanded the number of officers in order to place one at each elementary school, and legislators in several states, including Indiana and Arizona, are considering multimillion-dollar bills to expand school resource officers, the Associated Press reports.