To Enforce, Educate, or Empathize? The Conflicting Roles of Police in Schools

Rebecca Gleit , Stanford University

Police are commonly present in American schools, though their roles are often complex and ambiguously defined. This paper interrogates the role of police officers within the education system using in-depth interviews with current or former school police officers. Preliminary findings suggest that officers see their main duty as promoting school safety, though this often involves taking on roles outside of law enforcement, such as educator or therapist. Officers express regret at the limited time available to fulfill these roles as they ideally wish and sometimes describe frustration when administrators’ seem to lack an understanding of their desired role. Yet despite their insistence of the necessity of having cops in schools, officers were largely unable to articulate clearly how the schools they work in would differ without their presence. In other words, the specific value-added of police seems unclear, even to those holding the job.

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 Presented in Session 150. Exposure to Violence and Aggression in Schools and Adolescent Development