Welcome to SRO HQ!
SRO's are commissioned law enforcement officers assigned to support Washington schools. They are an invaluable resource and provide many critical services for educators, students, parents and communities. This site is dedicated to recognizing the hard work, diligence and service of these men and women and to providing tools and resources to help make the most of this valuable asset. The goal of our schools is to provide the safest possible environment for our kids to learn and grow - and SRO's are at the heart of this process.
What Is an SRO?
An SRO, or School Resource Officer, is a police officer or sheriff's deputy assigned to work in a school.
The formal definition of an SRO according to Washington legislation is as follows:
A School Resource Officer (SRO) is a commissioned law enforcement officer in the state of Washington with sworn authority to make arrests, deployed in community-oriented policing, and assigned by the employing police department or sheriff's office to work in schools to address crime and disorder problems, gangs, and drug activities affecting or occurring in or around K-12 schools. School resource officers should focus on keeping students out of the criminal justice system when possible and should not be used to attempt to impose criminal sanctions in matters that are more appropriately handled within the educational system.
What SRO's REALLY Do
In actual practice, SRO's perform a wide variety of vital services for schools, students and administrators that goes far beyond this simple definition, including (among others):
- Teaching Safety Skills to Staff and Students
- After School Programs
- Positive Behavior Incentive Programs
- Puppy Therapy
- Sports Equipment Giveaways
- Working with students with disabilities
- Career Fairs
- Food Drives
- Relationship Building
- Informal Counseling
- Safety Days
- Protecting Against Outside Threats
Dr. Bertie Simmons, a nationally recognized educator and long time high school principal, describes them as "a necessity on school campuses".
While not all Washington schools have an SRO, every school has the right to pursue one with their local law enforcement agencies.
What SRO's DON'T Do
- School Discipline
- Address violations of School Policy
Why Have an SRO?
There are countless benefits to a school for having a trained and dedicated SRO on site. The following is just a sample, gathered from the success of our own Washington schools:
Safety: Serious incidents are less likely to occur with an SRO on site, and those that do are resolved sooner.
- Stability: The presence of a uniformed officer deters many incidents and creates a more stable learning environment.
Relationships: SRO's know the students and their problems and are more effective in working with them and their families.
Trust: Students are more apt to confide in their SRO's and other law enforcement officers, preventing escalation.
Immediate Response: No waiting for street or patrol units to respond (non-priority calls sometimes take hours for a response depending on workload).
Reduced Time and Effort: SRO's work with school administration and teachers in resolving issues at the school level.
- Alternatives to Arrest: The benefits of knowing student and families helps the SRO make alternative choices when offenses are committed in the community.
Community Support: Issues with families and students are often de-escalated at school, preventing them from spilling over into the community (or vice versa).
SRO's are required to have extensive training to prepare them for work in our schools. In addition to their rigorous police academy education and ongoing professional development, they also undergo training in twelve supplementary subject areas:
12 Training Areas Required By Washington State Law (RCW 28A.320.124)
- Constitution & Civil Rights of Children in School
- Child Adolescent Development (Adolescent Brain Development)
- Trauma Informed Approaches
- Recognition and Responding to Youth Mental Health Issues
- Educational Rights of Students With Disabilities; Disability and Behavior; Best Practices for Interacting With Students With Disabilities
- Collateral Consequences of Arrest, Referral for Prosecution & Court Involvement
- Community Resources: Alternatives to Arrest & Prosecution; Pathways to Access Services w/o court or Criminal Justice Involvement
- Disparities in the Use of Force and Arrests of Children
- De-Escalation Techniques
- Restraint and Isolation in Schools
- Bias Free Policing; Cultural Competency; Diversity Training
- FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)
It is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to see that their SRO's have the appropriate training. It is the responsibility of school districts to verify that this training has taken place before engaging an officer as an SRO.
S5: SRO Summit - Safety and Support for Students
While SRO's can and do receive essential skills training through NASRO (the National Association of School Resource Officers) this additional above-and-beyond training required by the state can be acquired at the annual S5 Summit presented by the School Safety Operations and Coordination Center (SSOCC) of ESD 105.
In addition to complete coverage of all 12 required areas, SRO's will enjoy powerful networking connections, training and information in additional subject areas such as (threat assessment) and will receive a certificate and other resources. S5 is held in June of every year. Contact us for more information and registration information.
The event is entirely free for SRO's and is open to security officers and other school safety related personnel for a nominal fee.
OSPI School Safety Center Website
Another excellent resource for SRO's is the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) School Safety Center website. The Safety Center hosts an information page for SRO's, which includes information on self-training on the 12 addtional requirements.
If unable to attend the S5 event, SRO's may also use this site to self-train. If this option is chosen, officers should record the date and link of any training and log it in their personnel file.
Additional Training Resources
So You're Thinking About Getting an SRO...
- Discuss with the school board
- Adopt a school board policy/procedure
- Contact local law enforcement to discuss the possibility
- Identify a funding source (school budget, grant, etc.)
- Establish an MOU with the LE agency
- Involve parents, students and community members
- Include a data collection process
- Identify candidates with LE agency
- Conduct candidate interviews
- Ensure that selected candidate has the required training
Identify your nearest law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the school. Contact their office and ask for a meeting to discuss the possibility of establishing an SRO program.
Identify a funding source. In most cases, the school will assume a significant portion of the SRO's salary, in partnership with the law enforcement agency. Some schools are able to cover the cost out of their district budget, while others apply for grants. District Business Managers, Special Programs or Grant Writes should be able to assist.
MOU (Memorandum of Understanding): an MOU between the law enforcement agency and the school will help to clarify the arrangement and establish ground rules and a solid understanding of the SRO's roles, responsibilities and expectations. Make sure your MOU has an accountability section that describes what steps will be taken if an SRO or school fails to fulfill their respective expectations. It is also strongly recommended that MOU's specify that schools are to have equal (or even final) say in candidate selection.
School Board Policy and Procedure
Washington State law requires a district to have a policy and procedure in place to help govern the SRO relationship. A sample template has been developed by WSSDA and is suitable for customization and quick adoption.
Interviews - BE INVOLVED!
The best way to select an SRO is through a partnership between the school and law enforcement agency. Both sides will bring a unique perspective. Only by blending them will the right candidate be chosen. Both sides must be thoroughly committed and involved and have equal say in the process.
Review the requirements, training and personal qualities required by an SRO (see "What to Look For" below) with the sponsoring law enforcement agency and ask them to identify some qualified candidates. Schedule and conduct interviews with each candidate. In addition to standard employment questions used by your district, include SRO-specific questions. Guidelines for this interview process have been developed by school administrators with successful SRO programs and reviewed and approved by their law enforcement partners.
What to Look For
Just like a school needs to hire the right teacher or custodian or para-educator, they also need to hire the right SRO. While evaluating candidates, consider all of the duties and expectations listed above. Also give careful consideration to the personal qualities and characteristics of each officer. These traits will be extremely important to their success.
A list of ideal qualities and characteristics has been compiled from school administrators with successful SRO programs and national sources.
- Ability to establish positive relationships
- Ability to bridge the gap between law enforcement and education
- Desire to ensure the success of each student
- Good listening skills
- Knowledgeable about school safety topics
- Strong communication skills
- Supportive (of students, staff, and community)
- Understand the communities served by the school
If You Can't Find the Right Candidate
Keep looking. Don't settle. An officer without the proper tools and character can end up doing more harm than good, both to the school and the law enforcement agency. It's better to have no SRO than the wrong SRO.
"In my 15 years of running large public comprehensive high schools, I have found the School Resource Officer model to be extremely successful."
"Our schools would not be as safe as they are without our SROs."
"Our SRO goes out of his way to make positive relationships with our students."
"First and foremost, I see them as additional educators."
"I believe they are an invaluable asset to our buildings and community."
There are two reasons for this section:
For School Districts: If your SRO is not meeting your expecations or is performing duties in an unreasonable, excessive or unsupportive way.
For SRO's: If you feel the school is not properly supporting you or is asking for unreasonable services.
For both groups, the steps are simliar and most issues can be resolved easily with the first step. If not, additional steps are offered to help reach a positive solution.
- Meeting With SRO and School Admins
- Review the MOU, definition and policy/procedure.
- Most importanly, clearly explain your expecations (use the list above).
- Meet With Sponsoring Law Enforcement Agency
- Review the same documents as above.
- Clearly describe the problem behaviors/actions and suggest alternatives.
- Refer to the specifics of the contract for dispute resolution.
- If a mediator is required, contact the SSOCC for possible assistance and additional resources.
- Meeting With SRO and School Admins
- OSPI School Safety Center SRO Webpage
- WSSO: Washington School Safety Organization
- SRO Contacts
- The officers listed below are available to answer questions and provide additional information. Please feel free to contact them with any issues related to the SRO program. Their geographical location is provided for your convenience.
- Mark Holthaus: email@example.com (Eastern Washington - Spokane Area)
- Karen Davy: Karen.Davy@kingcounty.gov (Western Washington - Seattle Area)
- Nigel Hunter: Nigel.Hunter@co.chelan.wa.us (Northern Washington - Wenatchee Area)
- John Morbeck: firstname.lastname@example.org (Southern Washington - Clarkston Area)
- Study: Most Black Americans Want Police to Maintain Same Level of Presence
- Success Story: Maryland Model School Resource Officer Program
- Success Story: Boise SRO Daily Activities
- Success Story: Dr. Bertie Simmons, Furr High School