Indiana’s attorney general will work with the state’s congressional delegation in the new year to try to secure more federal funding for police officers in schools. But some criminal justice advocates say hiring new school resource officers won’t necessarily make schools safer.
The Obama administration wants to fund the hiring of 1,000 new school resource officers across the country — a priority Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants to make sure congressional lawmakers fund in the 2014 federal budget. Indiana lawmakers have already created a program authorizing more than $9 million in matching grants to help schools hire special law enforcement officers.
Zoeller spokesperson Bryan Corbin says as Washington lawmakers begin writing the budget, he hopes they add funding for resource officers.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t predict the future in terms of that funding,” Corbin said. “But to the extent that there’s funding available and to the extent that our efforts can help local law enforcement and local schools to secure that funding, then we will try to assist them if we can.”
The U.S. Justice Department currently spends $45 million on a national grant program for hiring school resource officers. Only one Indiana community received a grant from that program last year.
But criminal justice advocate Jeremy Haile of the Sentencing Project says resource officers might not be making schools safer.
“As well-intentioned as they may be, and as well-trained as they may be to handle crime and violence on the streets, they may not be well-trained to deal with juveniles and students with mental health issues,” Haile said.
Law enforcement officials have said school resource officers do receive special training and the Attorney General’s office says more Indiana schools have asked for help in hiring them.
Haile says research has shown putting law enforcement officers in schools doesn’t necessarily decrease crime, but it can feed juveniles into the criminal justice system for offenses that educators might deal with using a suspension or expulsion.