Bad Cops Don't Belong Inside High Schools

police carWhen you're raised in a small town, seeing a cop means only one thing: Something bad has happened, and they're responding to fix it. So you'll excuse me if the trend toward putting more police officers in America's schools in the post-Columbine era has always left me on edge.

I keep looking for positive signs, but a school police force in the Sacramento, California area isn't making me feel any better this week. The Twin Rivers School District Police Officers are apologizing for printing up shirts that touted "U Raise 'Em, We Cage 'Em."


Sounds like those cops just made their own jobs a whole lot harder! Because nothing shouts, "Hey kids, come tell me about the drug dealer who's been hassling you on the playground" like a cop wearing a t-shirt that practically screams, "I think you're a little hooligan."

As a parent trying to raise a good kid, I'm not naive enough to think that every one of her classmates is going to be angelic. There were drugs in my small town high school back in the '90s, and today's teenagers tell me the substances available to them (should they want to dabble) are even harder than the stuff we saw back then. As scary as some kid bringing a gun into a school and shooting up the place is to any parent, it's still fairly (fortunately) rare, but the drugs are a serious problem that has to be dealt with.

This is where I look for the cop in the school to play a role unlike what they might put on out on a regular street. If you want to get anything from a teenager, you have to get them to trust you. It's something we as parents have a tough time with because we can't be their friends.

But there's a reason these cops are called school resource officers, people. So they can be a RESOURCE to the school community. Treat kids like they're little scumbags from the get-go, and you're never going to make them feel like walking up to you and saying, "Hey, you know, I don't know who to talk to about this but ... " Start off treating them like you value the good in them, and they may just want to live up to that high expectation.

A good cop knows how to actually make use of his time in a high school. A bad cop can't figure out how to interact with kids. Bad cops don't belong in high schools.

Do you think these cops made a mistake?


Image via smith/Flickr

Read More >