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to feel and act, and that attitude exudes from us and affects those around us. It can be contagious. A role model with a good attitude is an invaluable asset. A police offi cer within a school will not be accepted immediately.

There will be skepticism and fear. Kids will think you’re a “narc” and parents will fear that there is a cop with a gun in the school. Your offi cer’s attitude will confi rm these fears, or quickly put them to rest. By being reactive, students will slowly but surely trust you. If you are searching bags, lock- ers, and cars, few students will talk with you or trust you. Instead, developing long-term relationships will prove more fruitful.

If the goal is trust, the offi cer will have to fi guratively ex- pose him/herself and open him/herself up to some level of vulnerability. How can you do that tactically and profession- ally? By having a sense of humor. The students have watched all of the media hype about police offi cers. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Cop jokes can be funny. What are a cop’s four main food groups? Jelly, frosted, powdered, and choco- late. The ability to laugh at oneself is a great foundation for relationship building.

You will be called PoPo and 5.0. Hands will go up accom- panied by “Don’t shoot.” Kids will point and say, “He did it!” These are great opportunities to start conversations, not to get offended. The SRO should take advantage of these encounters and build relation- ships with these students. Long-term relationships take

time to cultivate. Trust is built over time, not overnight. Parents are trusting you with the safety of their most precious possessions. Administrators are trusting that you will provide a measure of safety and provide a worthwhile return for their investment. Stu- dents certainly do not want an ad- versarial police offi cer questioning their actions in the hallway. All aspects of the police offi - cer’s professional assignments are equally important. Ask yourself this question: What is the primary purpose of policing today? The answer most commonly given is “providing safety.” Establishing a meaningful School Law En- forcement Program requires the commitment of both the forward thinking of the Police Department and the School District to provide the safety for our students. School Resource Officers have a huge responsibility placed on their shoulders, but their rewards are certainly worth the efforts. Communication through posi- tive contacts between students 49

and police offi cers is essential. The student contacts devel- oped by a School Resource Offi cer may prevent an incident or may prevent a potential disaster. The SRO is doing real police work. The knowledge that your professional develop- ment of trust and empathy has prevented a potential tragedy and helped countless kids is worth more than its weight in knowledge.

The satisfaction gained from preventing a tragedy or di- saster will equal that of the “high-fi ves” that often follows a capture of a wanted felon or running through an alley to cap- ture a wanted suspect by any offi cer. The SRO represents an important ingredient in our overall efforts to provide safety for our communities.

Beth Sanborn is an 18-year veteran of the Lower Gwynedd, Penn. Police Department currently assigned as a school resource offi cer, adjunct faculty for Holy Family University. She may be reached at

Dr. Charles J. Kocher is a retired police deputy chief from Camden, N.J., having served 30 years. He teaches undergraduate and graduate criminal justice courses at Wilmington University, Saint Joseph’s University, and Columbia Southern University. He can be reached at

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