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Detention or diversion? The influence of training and education on school police officer discretion

Philip Colin Bolger (Department of Criminal Justice, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jonathan Kremser (Department of Criminal Justice, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA)
Haley Walker (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 17 July 2018

Issue publication date: 18 March 2019

1052

Abstract

Purpose

The growing concern about school violence and security has led to a dramatic increase in the number of police officers working in schools. This increase has been accompanied by a focus on the training of school-based law enforcement, the discretion that they exercise when interacting with youth, and the concern that these factors may lead to more youths facing arrest and formal processing by the juvenile and criminal justice system. What is not well understood is whether or not having formal school resource officer (SRO) training or higher education impacts the officer’s decision making when responding to an incident involving a student. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses survey data from school police officers within the USA (n=179) to examine the officer’s preferred post-incident method of disciplining the youth, from the most punitive and formal approach of suspension or referral to juvenile authorities, to the less punitive and informal approach such as diversion or warn and release.

Findings

Overall, the study found that officers who have received formal SRO training were more likely to prefer a formal resolution to the incidents, and more highly educated officers tended to favor less punitive and informal responses.

Originality/value

These findings question the current state of the effectiveness of SRO training at using diversionary tactics for conflict resolution in a school setting.

Keywords

Citation

Bolger, P.C., Kremser, J. and Walker, H. (2019), "Detention or diversion? The influence of training and education on school police officer discretion", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 255-269. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-01-2018-0007

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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