News 2 I-Team: Problems and perks of cops in schools

As your student prepares to head back to class, it's likely they will have a school resource officer on campus.

SRO positions are one of the fastest growing areas of law enforcement in the country.

The News 2 I-Team looked into what researchers call "critical issues" with cops in schools and explores how local officers are trained to interact with your children.

Researchers ID problems

More than 600 officers are stationed in schools in South Carolina.  Researchers found some key problems with the police in our schools.Those issues include SROs inadvertently promoting the school to prison pipeline; SROs lack training; and a lack of policies regulating SRO roles and responsibilities, according to Dr. Joe Ryan at Clemson University.

Although it's not mandatory, it is encouraged for all school resource officers to attend the SRO class at the Criminal Justice Academy.  The SC Department of Education told the I-Team it's up to each school district to decide what roles SROs will play in their schools.

On the job training

This is the fourth year SROs in Berkeley County participated in a week-long training.  The training is hosted by the school's Safety and Security Coordinator, Tim Knight.  At the training, officers learned CPR, Krav-Maga seLf-defense,  and dealing with an active shooter.

The focus in Berkeley County this year is connecting with students so students feel comfortable going to officers.  Knight says that will help prevent crime in schools.

Officers in Charleston County schools also participated in a five day training developed by the North Charleston Police Department.  Topics included dealing with an active shooter, handling students with mental health issues, and spotting drugs and guns.

While officers are placed in school for safety, the US Department of Education guidelines encourage officers to play no role in administering school discipline.

“You have to be very careful so that normal teenage behavior, even though it's breaking the rules of the school, you have to be very careful so you're not attaching criminality to that,” Major Tony Phinney, Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, explained.

In Dorchester County Major Phinney said deputies are trained at the Criminal Justice Academy and must also work in the field before being placed into a school.  Major Phinney says the field work gives deputies perspective before working with students in schools.

Right now, 48 SROs are assigned in Charleston County schools.  At least one full-time SRO is assigned to each middle and high school.  In the 2017-2018 school year, CCSD will contribute $701,430 toward the funding of the SRO program.  The remaining balance is covered by the individual jurisdictions.

In Dorchester County, 23 SROs work in district schools. Two officers are placed at each high school.

In Berkeley county, 22 officers are divided into each middle and high school.

The officers are equipped exactly like any officer would be in the field.

“If a school doesn't have an officer and God forbids some issue happens, someone has to call 911.  The operator has to get the information, and they dispatch a deputy. That delay is critical.

Although it's not mandatory, its encouraged for all school resource officers to attend the SRO class at the Criminal Justice Academy. SRO training began in 1996.  Since then, 1,186 officers completed  basic SRO training.  Some 527 officers completed the advance SRO training.  Classes cover a variety of topics including:   Interview and interrogation techniques, dealing with active shooters, and spotting child abuse.

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