The dust-up last week between Kaysville and Layton over who should pay for a school resource officer at Fairfield Junior High, which serves both cities, got us wondering.
Just how effective are school resource officers?
Turns out, nobody really knows.
There appears to be a glaring lack of hard evidence that SRO programs have reduced crime or made schools safer.
Here's what the Consortium to Prevent School Violence reported when it researched the matter in 2008:
"Although most study authors have suggested that SROs help reduce violence and disorder in schools, the scientific evidence in support of these conclusions is quite limited. Of fifteen studies of SROs over the past 14 years that were reviewed, almost all relied on opinion surveys and study designs that could not provide solid evidence of the impact that SROs have on schools."
Most research does suggest that SROs are viewed favorably by school personnel and parents. But does that justify their cost?
The SRO program can be traced back to the 1950s, but didn't see widespread use until the 1990s. SROs are certified police officers assigned through cooperative agreements to work within local schools. In Utah they are members of a municipal or a sheriff's force and can be called from school duties to meet other policing needs. The salaries are generally split between the school district and the law enforcement agency they are assigned. Sometimes with new SROs the initial salary is paid through a federal grant for a certain period of time.
The dispute between Kaysville and Layton began when Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt wrote a letter to the Davis School District suggesting officials approach Layton about paying for the city share of the SRO because 60 percent of the students attending the junior high live in Layton.
Following a news story on his letter, and a meeting with his own police force, Hiatt withdrew his request.
The question left unanswered is whether or not schools need on-site police officers.
While we aren't necessarily opposed to SROs, tough economic times call for every program to be scrutinized to see if they are needed.
SROs could be a luxury that makes everyone feel good, but don't matter one way or another.
We think there needs to be more definitive study of the SRO program, both nationally and locally. Davis County isn't Detroit. Not every contingency needs to be funded by taxpayers.