Programs that put police officers in schools have been a success to date, according to a University of New Hampshire study released in June.
Justiceworks, a UNH think tank, examined nine New Hampshire high schools by surveying students and teachers when their programs began in September 1999 and in the springs of 2000 and 2001. More than 1,000 pupils and 500 teachers participated in the study, which was paid for by the New Hampshire Department of Justice.
Students and teachers reported feeling safer on school grounds with the officers there. Teachers reported fewer drug sales and less marijuana smoking, gang activity, or disruptive behavior among students.
The study also found that virtually none of the students who reported bringing weapons to school before the officers arrived carried weapons two years later.
Justiceworks officials said even students who gave negative responses in initial surveys became more supportive in later questioning.
“What is most remarkable about the study’s findings is the [officers’] positive effects on the learning environment of the study’s schools,” said John Kirkpatrick, the group’s director.
Newmarket Junior-Senior High School recently completed its first year with School Resource Officer Wayne Stevens. Principal Deborah Brooks said having a police cruiser parked in front of the building makes for a safer environment.
“It is my opinion that if someone was going to come into the building for some destructive behavior, that will be a deterrent,” she said.
While Brooks said Newmarket is a small school with little history of physical violence, the presence of the school resource officer has reduced fights among students. She said students also have approached Stevens for law enforcement questions unrelated to school. Dover, N.H., has two school resource officers, for the high school and middle school, and police are applying for a federal COPS in Schools grant to put a second officer at the high school.
“I think it adds to the feeling that we are doing all we can so that we maintain and create a safe environment to students and staff,” said Dover Superintendent Armand LaSelva. “I don’t believe it gives a feeling of a police state, because it’s one of many other staff members in the building. . . . They’re part of the team.”
Justiceworks, Thompson Hall, UNH, Durham, NH 03824; phone (603) 862-1957, web http://www.justiceworks.unh.edu.
COPS in Schools, U.S. Department of Justice, 100 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530; phone (202) 514-2058, web http://www.usdoj.gov/cops/gpa/default.htm.