Police officers have been working with elementary students in local schools for more than 30 years and have expanded their presence in upper grade levels by having School Resource Officers.
Police officers typically have a presence around school neighborhoods before and after-school.
Police officers also make regular appearances at elementary schools through the Police PAL (Protect, Assist and Listen) program. Officers visit each elementary classroom at least once a year with age-specific safety protocols on topics such as stranger danger, bullying, gun safety and Internet safety.
Jefferson, Kennedy, Metro, Prairie and Washington high schools, along with Polk Alternative School, have a School Resource Officer (SRO) on campus. These officers are responsible for the feeder middle schools as well.
Through cooperative agreements between the Police Department, Cedar Rapids Community Schools, and College Community Schools, the School Resource Officer addresses day-to-day issues at the schools, works with school administrators and teachers, and serves as a resource for students. For example, a SRO will encourage individual and small group discussions with students to further establish rapport. The SRO is available for conferences with students, parents and faculty members in order to assist them with problems of a law enforcement or crime prevention nature.
The SRO normally works the hours when the students are present, but are able to vary their hours to attend activities like PTA meetings, staff meetings, or school orientations. The SRO is a continual resource and is familiar with community agencies that offer assistance to youths and their families, such as mental health clinics and drug treatment centers.
Police officers on school campuses have coordinated with school faculty to develop plans and strategies to prevent and minimize potentially dangerous situations such as unwanted guests or intruders into the building. Any criminal act that takes place in the school or on school grounds is handled by the SRO. This may include arrest, or diversionary tactics such as composing a paper instead of filing criminal charges. The SRO handles traffic accidents on campus and parking issues on adjoining streets. In addition, the SRO assists the K9 unit with any ongoing drug problems.
Like the Police Department’s two PAL program facilitators, the SROs have developed expertise in presenting various subjects to students including a basic understanding of the laws, the role of the Police Officer, and the police mission. Instruction may be in a formal setting such as a law or ethics class, or it could be in an informal setting like an eighth grade orientation session for students and parents.
The goal of both the Police PAL and SRO programs is to interact with students and build a stronger connection between the Police Officer and the youth at school and within the community. Officers help students recognize that they can work together in their community to solve problems.
In Fall 2016, Kirkwood Community College added a SRO. The SRO at Kirkwood promotes campus safety and works to enhance the Kirkwood Community College neighborhood through focus patrols, presentations, and one-on-one counseling, amongst several functions for Kirkwood students and staff.
Officer Andrew Tran
Polk Alternative School
Officer Jessica Barnhart
Prairie Point Middle School
Prairie High School
Officer Janae Obbink
Officer Spencer Watts