From The Desk Of Adam Brodsky: Upper Merion Police Department To Randomly Send Armed Patrolmen Into Upper Merion Schools

Choosing not to wait for Wayne LaPierre’s pistol packing posse of volunteers to start patrolling the hallways and shooting those who would want to harm your precious lil’ guy, the Upper Merion Police Department has begun random foot patrols in Upper Merion Schools.  The township is understandably horrified and concerned after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and is also forming a task force to determine how best to protect students, but waiting for a task force report doesn’t feel as good as sending in the gendarme.

Upper Merion Police Chief Tom Nolan intends to be proactive:

With each school shooting incident that occurs across the country we have re-evaluated what we are doing to prevent this tragedy in Upper Merion Township” said, Police Chief Nolan. “Our main goal is to make these schools a less appealing target because any potential actors will be aware that the police are often at the school and may arrive at any moment.”

This decision will certainly give pause to the next person who rationally plans to shoot up a school full of children. Perhaps more nuanced, is the question of impact. Though there haven’t been many comprehensive studies of the effects of School Resource Officers (cops in schools), the results are certainly a mixed bag.

For more from Adam on the topic, including … Hey, are those graphs? Meet us after the jump.

Barbra Raymond is director of schools & neighborhoods policy for The California Endowment, who has served as a project director in the Community Policing Bureau of the Seattle Police Department and as a criminal justice researcher with the RAND Corp. She says:

Beyond these gun-related incidents, the evidence on whether police improve overall school safety is unclear. And there are by-products: When police spend time on school campuses, misconduct normally handled by the principal is more likely to be turned into a formal offense.

Despite the growing number of school police, research does not support the thesis that an armed presence improves school safety. What is proven, however, is that more police on campus means more young people are sent into the justice system. Police are not typically trained in youth development, child psychology, or how to best respond to youth misconduct, which sometimes leads to an escalation of conflict and charges filed for misbehavior that used to be handled by the school. One study found that campuses with school resource officers had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an officer, even when accounting for school poverty. And in Los Angeles in the last three years, school police issued 33,000 tickets to young people that required them to go to court – with 40 percent of those tickets going to kids younger than 14.”

The fine folks over at The Justice Policy Institute have produced a pretty comprehensive report and their findings pretty much indicate that despite the good intentions of the Upper Merion PD and School District, more harm than good will come of this.

We strongly recommend reading the entire report, which is here. Allow us to touch on a couple of the bullet points, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The report notes that a CDC report from 1996 stated that a student is 40 times more likely to suffer a violent death in the world outside than in his or her school. “In a survey of a representative sample principals in schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 1997, 90 percent of principals reported no incidents of serious, violent crime defined as murder, suicide, rape or sexual battery, robbery, or physical attack with a weapon in that school year.” In fact, The total rate of self-reported school-based offenses per 1,000 students, including violent and theft, fell 69 percent between 1993 and 2008. Check it out, yo:

Oh, and there’s this too:

The tendency shown in schools with SRO’s is that many minor disciplinary matters that would normally be handled by vice-principals and counselors end up becoming police matters. This results in students who are now in the system, for instance:

In winter of 2011, police interrogated a 14-year-old Spotsylvania County, Virginia student for shooting plastic “spitwads” at other students in the hallway. The student was ultimately given suspension for the remainder of the school year (approximately 6 months), which the student and the family were challenging at the time of the news broadcast about the incident.

The father of the student told Fox News: “It takes four state agencies to go after someone with a spitwad: It takes the sheriff’s department, the commonwealth attorney, the school board on various levels and the department of juvenile justice … what a fine use of taxpayer resources.”

The report also found that in the same schools, students of color were more likely to be turned over to the police than their white peers.

In South Carolina, black students are more likely to be referred to law enforcement than their white peers. Black students make up 42 percent of student enrollment, but 75 percent of disorderly conduct charges, of which 90 percent are referred to law enforcement.”

It goes on and on like this. You should really read the report, it’s straight up fascinating. And like all good comprehensive reports (and PG-13 movies) it ends on a hopeful note, offering suggestions other than cops in the hallways. here are a few:

>>> Refrain from using law enforcement responses to student behavior 

>>> Institute a system to review the validity of arrests within the circumstances of the offense 

>>> Invest in prevention and intervention strategies that work 

>>> Collect more, better data 

>>> Create graduated responses to student behavior that take into account the circumstances of the case 

>>> Reduce disproportionate impacts on students of color and students with disabilities 

And finally:

>>> Remove all law enforcement officers from schools 

We’d like to add Pepsi in the water fountains and pizza everyday in the cafeteria, but anything that helps bring all our little moppets safely into productive adulthood is what we would favor. And we think the fine folks in Upper Merion would agree with us.

– Adam Brodsky

Adam Brodsky, is, in no particular order, a World Record Holding Folksinger, Writer, Baseball fan, and Beer League First Baseman who hits for average. His Novel will be out when he fucking finishes it, so get off his back! You can follow him @adambrodsky