Opening the Black Box: Empirically Examining What School Resource Actually Officers Do During the Workday

Dr. Nadine Connell2, Dr Jon Maskály1

1University Of Texas At Dallas, Dallas, USA,

2Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

One of the most popular policy solutions to address crime and safety issues in schools is to place police officers in schools—as so-called school resources officers (SROs). In theory, the officers will be working to develop relationships with the students and be there to serve the public safety needs of students and staff on the school campus. To date, there has been no systematic research examining what SROs actually do during the workday, which is problematic. As such, studies controlling for the presence of SROs make assumptions about those roles that have not been empirically verified. Without the ability to accurately describe the activities of the SROs, we rely on anecdotal evidence that fits our political narrative of public safety in and around schools. We try to address this gap in the literature by looking at the activities of SROs in a suburban setting that is part of one of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States serving more than 10,000 students. Over the course of more than two years, we document the day to day activities of the four SROs and the SRO supervisor at the 25 schools in their jurisdiction. The results paint a complicated picture of activity as the SROs try to support the students’ success by addressing issues that threaten their physical, social, and psychological safety while attending school.


Dr. Connell is an Associate Professor of Criminology at Griffith University. Her research revolves around broad issues of juvenile justice and more specifically around crimes in and around schools.

Dr. Maskály is an Assistant Professor in the Criminology program at the University of Texas at Dallas. His research focuses on broad issues related to police-community relations.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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