School Resource Officers play an important role in ensuring the safety of students and staff in schools. By providing a physical presence on campus, SROs are able to provide a sense of security and order within the school environment. Additionally, SROs can provide counseling and mentorship to students, assist in conflict resolution, and serve as liaisons between the school and law enforcement. They serve as deterrents to crime and can quickly respond to emergency situations. SROs also help promote positive relationships between law enforcement and the community by providing an understanding of the law and the consequences of breaking it.
Boone County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Neil Randolph discussed the role that the county’s SROs have in the county’s public schools.
What Is the Role of an SRO
A School Resource Officer (SRO) is a law enforcement officer who is assigned to a school or district to promote school safety, enforce laws, and provide support to students and staff. SROs are typically employed by local police departments or sheriff’s offices, and they work closely with school administrators to create a safe and secure learning environment.
The role of an SRO can vary depending on the specific needs and priorities of the school or district, but their responsibilities often include:
- Developing relationships with students, staff, and parents to foster a sense of trust and community
- Responding to and investigating incidents of criminal activity on school property
- Providing guidance and support to students who may be struggling with personal or academic issues
- Providing education and training to students and staff on topics such as drug prevention, internet safety, and conflict resolution
- Working with school administrators to develop emergency plans and procedures in case of a crisis or threat
- Serving as a liaison between the school and law enforcement agencies
Critics of SRO programs argue that the presence of law enforcement officers in schools can create a hostile and intimidating environment for students. Supporters of SRO programs, on the other hand, argue that they provide a valuable resource for maintaining school safety and helping students navigate complex issues.
Sergeant Randolph spoke about the role of an SRO as being a positive role model and someone who builds relationships with the students and staff as well as creates a safe learning environment.
“I began my first four years as an SRO assigned to Western Boone Junior-Senior High School when [former] Sheriff Nielsen started the program,” Randolph shared. “[Nielsen] took the step in 2018 to put an officer or deputy in every [public] school that BCSO oversees. I was familiar with Western Boone, having daughters, and still it was eye opening. It was just a new environment. You go into it engaging and building trust with the kids. My mission was/is to reach out to the kids and lead by example so they’re like, ‘This guy’s OK. He’s not here to ‘get’ me.’ I want the kids to know that SROs are here to be a resource for them if they need something. I want them to know that they can reach out to us and to all law enforcement in general.”
Randolph was promoted to supervisor of the BCSO SRO division and feels that the work of the SROs is not just rewarding and necessary … he considers it an honor.
“On a personal side of things, it was kind of a resurgence of my career,” Randolph expressed. “Dealing with the day-to-day things and the things going on in the world can make you a little negative. When you walk into a school building and you see the smiles on the kids’ faces because they’re just glad to see you, if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what does. I’ve got the greatest job in the world, and I think we have one of [the], if not the most, important divisions within BCSO right now. We are overseeing a lot of precious cargo. These kids are every family’s number 1. We see them every day and that’s a privilege … and an honor.”
By now, the public has become more familiar with the role of SROs, but what they may not know is that the county’s SROs undergo specific training to become an SRO and are full-time merit deputies and officers. All BCSO deputies have been actively participating in active shooter or violent intruder training for years — long before these incidents were regular “breaking news” stories across the nation.
“We are our own division just like investigations, corrections, or communications,” Randolph explained. “Our division is there for the students, staff and families and to help everybody make everything go smoothly and safely. That’s our number one priority. We have to go through the National Association of School Resource Officers training. It’s a 40-hour required class for anybody that comes in, and then we have yearly training to update us on juvenile law or anything that you might see and circumstances you might have to deal with. We also do staff training at the schools.”
Randolph concluded, “SROs are the eyes and ears of the [school] hallways, and yes, we’re always checking those doors and parking lots to make sure nothing looks suspicious or not normal. Everyone in our division does a great job and is dedicated to the position. There’s a lot more to being an SRO than people realize, but it’s a great position and I love it.”
For more information on BCSO’s SRO division, visit www.boonecountyindianasheriff.com.