POLICE / SCHOOL / KIDS A SAFETY PARTNERSHIP. Laurel Sutton Manager, Police Schools Involvement Program Victoria Police

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1 POLICE / SCHOOL / KIDS A SAFETY PARTNERSHIP Laurel Sutton Manager, Police Schools Involvement Program Victoria Police Paper presented at the The Role of Schools in Crime Prevention Conference convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology in conjunction with the Department of Education, Employment and Training, Victoria, and Crime Prevention Victoria and held in Melbourne, 30 September 1 October 2002

2 Introduction Victoria Police has a significant commitment to crime prevention in school communities. One major commitment is the Police Schools Involvement Program (PSIP) which reflects a partnership approach between school communities and specially trained police known as School Resource Officers (SRO). Historical Perspective In 1988, the then Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police became convinced it was necessary to involve police in the schools formal and informal curricula in a number of ways. Previously police had gone into schools to give a talk on some aspect such as how to cross the road safely or these are the consequences of shoplifting. The member concerned would give the talk and then disappear. There was no opportunity to relate to the school curriculum and the school community and give ownership of the information to the school community. Nor was there the opportunity to develop a relationship with the young people concerned so the blue uniform became a positive symbol. In essence, the impact of the police officer was minimal. A number of problems were identified at the time as needing addressing. These included: The rising crime rate; The lack of opportunity to learn society s rules; Drug misuse; Alienation of police from the community Considerable research both interstate and internationally was undertaken. It became clear that a model that was suitable for the Victorian education system would need to be developed. It also became clear that any program development and implementation relied on the co-operation of the three largest government departments together with a large number of interested parties. Consequently, a Steering Committee was implemented to develop the program structure, implementation and training. The stage was thereby set for the partnership and collaborative approach that is integral to PSIP. PSIP was introduced in 1989 based on an underpinning philosophy and set of aims and objectives and framework for delivery. The PSIP Co ordination Office was also implemented at the time to provide strategic direction and support for the program. Underpinning Philosophy PSIP is a proactive initiative undertaken by Victoria Police to address justifiable social concerns. It works in close collaboration or partnership with school communities in order to enable young people to make positive life choices. It assists young people to understand their rights and responsibilities, to develop strategies to maximise their own and the community s safety and to make appropriate choices and decisions. It provides an empowerment process for young people through skill development, information and personal development. This is coupled with developing a positive relationship with police or trusted adult during a young person s formative years. In other words it assists with the development of resiliency skills and protective factors. In turn it contributes to the individual s and community safety. The program is therefore designed to be an early intervention program and strategic in intent with results being seen in the long term.

3 Program Structure The Police Schools Involvement Program is structured to reflect a set of aims namely: To reduce the incidence of crime in society To develop a better relationship between police and youth in the community To create in young people an understanding of the police role in society To extend the concept of crime prevention into Victorian schools To equip young people with the necessary skills to avoid dangerous and threatening situations Along with these aims, specific behavioural objectives have been set. It is hoped that after participation in the program young people will be able to: Demonstrate the values, responsibilities and obligations current society deems valuable; State the consequences of a person s actions regarding unlawful behaviour; Demonstrate sufficient self esteem and skill to resist the misuse of drugs and other anti social behaviour; State the role of police and the legal system in Victoria; In order to achieve these aims and objectives the program is delivered around seven core themes. These are: The role of police in society; The legal system; Rights, rules and responsibilities; Consequences of our actions; Keeping ourselves and others safe; Drug and alcohol education; Personal development All of these seven themes closely interlink with the school s curriculum enhancing the relevance to the school community and the learning of the young people concerned. School Resource Officers (SRO) who are specially trained members of Victoria Police deliver PSIP. They occupy both full time and part time positions and work exclusively with school communities in the context of the Police Schools Involvement Program. There are currently 83 police occupying SRO positions. Once appointed to the position, the SROs work with up to ten primary and secondary schools in their local area. Government, independent and Catholic schools all have the opportunity to access the program and the principle of equity of access applies. SROs are encouraged to rotate some of their schools each year to increase their accessibility. Schools are selected an a basis of as request from the school, when the school last had access to the program, issues identified by the school, and offers made to the school at a local level.

4 At the beginning of the school year, the SRO consults with the school community about their needs for the year and on a collaborative basis develops the program for the school so that it interlinks with the curriculum, the learning needs of the students, the social and welfare approach of the school and the needs of the local community. In this way they best meet the needs of the school community and in particular the students. In delivering the program, the SRO delivers the lessons in the classroom and engages in interactions with the school such as staff room discussion, school camps and playground activities and parent meetings. Other than lessons, S/C P has made himself available for sports days, band excursions, special talks to the junior school children, our fete etc. He has been most helpful when asked for assistance and has built a positive relationship with staff because of his adaptability and flexibility. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 1999) In this way a positive and trusted relationships built up, the human face of policing enhanced and the accessibility of the member to the school community maximised. From this flow other advantages and services to the schools. For example It has been very beneficial for the boys (aged years) to have had contact with a police officer-particularly as many of our students come from dysfunctional families and have numerous personal problems. He has been an excellent role model. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 2000) Support for 2 children who face constant harassment due to a current murder trial involving their families. Support for the children who have been bereaved. Advice to the welfare teacher regarding statement in support of student /court appearance. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 2001) Whilst in the SRO positions, the members concerned receive ongoing professional development. This is around contemporary trends in education and may include Protective Behaviours, bullying, traffic safety education, classroom management and drug education. In respect of the issue of drug education, Victoria Police policy indicates that training in the five day drug education course is mandatory to conduct drug education in primary schools. The prerequisite for this is the SRO Training Course. The level of professional development in these areas is one contributing factor to the success of PSIP. SROs in the Classroom School Resource Officers use a variety of teaching methods in the classroom taking into account differing abilities of children to learn and their cognitive development. They use recognised resources, plan jointly with teachers and develop good relationships between the teachers, police and the students. Liaison Between Police and Schools 1986, Her Majesty s Inspectorate discusses the most appropriate and best practise models for police working in schools and makes some recommendations on Points of Good Practice (p.32). These are reflected in the work of PSIP and were part of the framework on which it was developed. They provide some recognised standards for police work in schools in Great Britain and are still recognised today and cited in the literature. The work of the SROs and the lessons delivered by them link with the school curriculum, best practise standards and with the policies of the Department of Education and Training. A good example of how this works is with drug education.

5 In the area of drug education, SROs use a harm minimisation approach, work developmentally with students, provide a resource for the teachers who is the primary contact for drug education in the school, and work within the context of the health curriculum. This practice reflects nationally and state accepted standards for drug education as articulated by Ballard et al 1994, Principles for Drug Education in Schools. The Year 12 s have learnt a great deal about partying and drinking in relation to the law and their own safety. The incident of their leaving the college in their last year was trouble free. Less drug related incidents in The SRO played a pivotal role in developing our policy in 1999 in collaboration with the school community. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 2000) To take this a step further, recent publications from the Department of Education and Training, Get Real (1996) and Get Wise (1998) state that drug education should be an integral part of a comprehensive health education program which promotes values and attitudes which contribute to personal and community well being. Furthermore, this literature indicates that the school needs a supportive student welfare policy and framework which incorporates: Prevention ie inclusive practices which promote resilience; Early intervention incorporating school based programs which student welfare issues and risk factors such as harassment, bullying, anger management, conflict resolution etc. Intervention which supports students and offers appropriate counselling, care and treatment; Post vention, which restores wellbeing and includes well developed relationships and communication with parents and other community stakeholders. PSIP operates consistently with the broad based prevention approach and student welfare policy especially in the areas of risk and protective factors. Risk and Protective Factors Much modern literature makes reference to risk and protective factors. In essence it is suggested that young people who have a number of protective factors in their lives are less likely to engage in long term risky behaviours. The presence of protective factors builds resiliency in a young person. Protective factors include positive and caring relationships, attachment to a significant person, achievement, participation and contribution etc. Risk factors are those that are likely to negatively influence a young person s development and may need to maladaptive behaviours. Risk factors may include low self esteem, lack of self control, low social competency skills, being a victim of bullying, poor social performance etc. Research would indicate that if the development of protective factors can be maximised in a young person, even with the presence of risk factors, then they are less likely to engage in anti social behaviour, which may bring them into contact with the criminal justice system. PSIP works to maximise the protective factors through the development of decision making skills, encouraging inclusiveness and success, skill development in making choices and anti bullying and violence prevention strategies. Personal issues relating to self esteem, peer pressure, bullying, conflict resolution and personal safety have been an integral part of M s work in the school. This supports the whole of school approach to student discipline and welfare. M has worked closely with staff to present a unified approach to children and develop trust in authority figures. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 2000).

6 Bullying is reduced. Children listen to an officer before a teacher when discussing the law. Students responded to Constable A on health and self awareness issues better than the teacher. There has been a noticeable decrease in bullying in the school yard due to the work undertaken by Constable A. (PSIP Customer Service Survey 2001). PSIP and Crime Prevention So how does PSIP contribute to crime prevention is schools? It takes a broad based prevention approach as already discussed and is therefore adaptable to a variety of needs and circumstances. It also relies heavily on the development of protective factors and resiliency and the minimisation of risk factors. And finally PSIP uses the developmental approach to crime prevention Edwards et al (2001) refers to two types of crime prevention in schools- opportunity reduction and the developmental approach. PSIP works with the developmental approach, which according to Edwards et al reduces the impact of risk factors and amplifies the protective factors at key times in a young person s life. The net effect of this is the reduction of the motivation for anti social behaviour. Gottfriedson indicates that schools have a great potential for crime reduction as they provide regular access to students throughout their developmental years and are staffed by individuals who are paid to socialise children appropriately. Furthermore she indicates that many precursors of delinquent behaviour are school related and are therefore likely to be amenable to school based interventions. If we are to acknowledge that a relevant part of policing is crime reduction and prevention then the presence of police in schools is reasonable, necessary and effective. The work of the School Resource Officer in schools acknowledges the developmental approach to crime reduction as per Edwards et al and takes the opportunity in its delivery of working with students through their cognitive and emotional developmental phases in partnership with the teachers. Conclusion PSIP makes a significant contribution to crime prevention in schools as an early intervention strategy. Its structure, delivery, and basic principles lead to its effectiveness. Evidence provided by schools in the annual Customer Service Surveys indicate that PSIP is making a difference to young people in terms of developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours which encourage pro social attitudes and behaviours and lead to individual and community safety and the reduction of crime.

7 References Ballard et al, 1994, Principles for Drug Education in Schools-an Initiative of the School Development in Health Project, University of Canberra, Faculty of Education Creating Conversations Training Manual 2001 Department of Education, Employment and Training Department of Education and Science, 1988, Our Policeman-Good Practice in Police Schools Liaison, A Survey by HM Inspectorate Edwards, G., Carr, L., Hudson, M., Harris, R., O'Connell, M., Mathews C., 2001, Crime Prevention Curriculum in South Australian Schools, A Study of Programs, Materials and Initiatives, Centre for Research in Education, Equity and Work, University of South Australia Framework for Student Support Services in Victorian Government Schools, 1999, Department of Education, Employment and Training Get Real- A Drug Education Resource for Primary and secondary schools, 1996 Department of Education, Employment and training Get Wise-Drug Education Resource for Schools and Their Communities, 1988, Department of Education, Employment and Training Gottfredson, D.C., 1997, "School Based Crime Prevention" in L.W. Herman, D.C. Gottfredson D.I. MacKenzie, J. Eck, P. Reuter and S.D Bushway. Preventing Crime: What works, what doesn't what's promising, National Institute of justice, US Department of Justice, also on National Anti Crime Strategy-Developmental Approach and Early Intervention Approaches to Crime in Australia 1999 Police Schools Involvement Program Customer Service Surveys 1999, 2000, 2001 Victoria Police Sutton Laurel 1996 Police Schools Involvement Program-A Case Study, Australian Institute of Criminology Web Page

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