School Resource Officers (SROs)

The Liberty Central School District has two full-time School Resource Officers, Devin Brust and Adam Lake, who help with school safety and provide education and support to students and staff on a variety of topics, including drug abuse, violence, bullying and theft.

A successful SRO program is focused on building healthy relationships between law enforcement and members of the school district to benefit individual students and the greater community. Read on for frequently asked questions and answers about SROs.

What is a school resource officer (SRO)?

An SRO is a career law enforcement officer who is assigned to work in collaboration with one or more schools, by federal definition. SROs are assigned by their employing police department, agency or sheriff’s department to this specific, community-oriented patrol duty. Unlike a security guard, an SRO is a sworn law enforcement officer with the authority to make an arrest.

What is the role of a school resource officer?

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) considers it a best practice to use a “triad concept” to define the three main roles of school resource officers: educator (i.e. guest lecturer), informal counselor/mentor and law enforcement officer. While the role of a school resource officer can vary from district to district and from SRO to SRO, functions of an SRO include the following:

  • Mentor
  • Counselor
  • Information resource on safety and law enforcement matters
  • Protector and enforcer
  • First responder
  • Community liaison
  • Educator
  • Emergency response planner
  • Investigator

When did schools begin to hire school resource officers?

SROs played roles in programs that date back to the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Does an SRO carry a gun?

Yes. In most cases, an SRO carries a gun, just as they would if they were on regular duty.

How many SROs are there in the United States?

While there are no exact figures, a 2018 U.S. Department of Education report indicated that 42 percent of public schools in the country had at least one SRO present for at least one day a week during the 2015-16 school year. NASRO estimates between 14,000 and 20,000 SROs are currently serving in districts across the United States.

How many SROs are in New York?

As of 2017, there were less than 200 SROs in New York, according to the New York State Sheriff’s Association.This number is on the rise as schools add officers in response to increased threats of school violence and the number of deadly incidents reported across the nation.

Does New York state require school districts to have an SRO?

No. New York state does not require public schools to have SROs, nor does it provide any funding for schools to acquire SROs. The New York State Legislature considered bills in the 2018 session related to state funding for SROs as well as allowing retired law enforcement officers to serve as SROs, but no action was taken.

How much does an SRO cost?

The cost of an SRO varies from district to district and depends on a number of variables. Costs can vary based on the contract a school district has with its local law enforcement agency. Because the position is often part-time, many SROs have additional duties when school is not in session. In 2013, NASRO estimated the cost for a daily, onsite SRO was $50,000-$80,000 a year. Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported the same estimate to be $75,000- $100,000.

What is the return on investment for districts with an SRO?

While studies are still emerging about the value of having a school resource officer in a school district, a Carleton University study released earlier this year indicates that SROs can improve overall school culture and climate. According to the report, benefits of having an SRO include:

  • Prevention or minimization of property damage in school buildings and surrounding areas.
  • Prevention of student injuries (including death) due to violence, drug overdoses, and other medical emergencies.
  • Reduction of the need for schools to call 911.
  • Reduction of the likelihood that a student will develop a criminal record.
  • Increase of the likelihood that students (particularly those with mental health issues) will get the help they need from the social service and health care systems.

Do school resource officers lead to an increase in juvenile incarceration?

There are competing views on the impact of SROs with regard to juvenile justice system. According to a 2013 report by NASRO, the number of incarcerated juveniles decreased as the number of SROs has increased, in part because SROs are able to intervene before a student becomes subjected to the juvenile justice system. However, there has been increased focus on the relationship between law enforcement and young people, particularly in urban communities with large minority populations.