UTILIZING POLICE IN SCHOOLS: A HANDS ON DISABILITY TRAINING & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
As developed by Police Chief Kevin McCarthy Sr.
Police departments, schools, and parents can use programs like DARE and COPS to develop positive relationships between community police officers and students with disabilities. These relationships have been proven to reduce negative interactions with the police, make the disabled child and family feel like part of a larger welcoming community, support families and assist educators.
Families or school administration can take advantage of these programs which already in place in many schools, by making an appointment with their local police chief to request that the DARE Officer, or School Relations Officer make a point to spend a short time in special education classrooms during their routine bi-monthly visits. Areas only served by the Pennsylvania State Police would make the request to the Commander for a “Community Service Officer” to make these visits once or twice a month as it fits their schedule. During these visits, officers meet and interact with the students. They help them learn to give personal information to uniformed officers, rewarding them when they do. Talk about good ways to respond to police and in general get to know each other. The teachers in the Special Education Classrooms can direct the interaction to best serve the students in their care.
These visits are an effective and inexpensive way for police departments to build community ties and develop relationships with a traditionally underserved and often misunderstood population. They increase communication between disabled individuals and police officers and create opportunities for communication between schools and police.
How does this benefit the students?
- They recognized uniformed individuals as people who can help them.
- They develop a positive feeling toward police officers and paramedics so they will willingly interact with these officers in the future.
- The individual students become known to the officers and so, the officers will know what to do if they see the student wandering or needs assistance in the community.
- If the student is involved in an incident at school, the officer is a known person that can possibly reduce poor outcomes and the need for physical contact.
- It takes advantage of the natural relationship with the educator to teach the officers how to best interact in a non-threatening manner.
- For higher functioning individuals it reduces the anxiety level they may experience around officers in community situations.
How does this benefit the Police Officer and their department?
- Officers can recognize the odd movements, noises, and behaviors as possibly being part of a disability as opposed to assuming that they are the result of drug use.
- Officers get to personally know some of the disabled children in the communities they patrol.
- When Officers become more familiar with behaviors, even in different people in the community, they are more at ease and then become better able to respond appropriately.
- The time involved in the program is minimal about 10 – 15 minutes per visit to the school.
How does this benefit the schools?
- Schools have an additional trained adult who has an established relationship with special needs students to help in the event of an behavioral outburst.
- Schools have an additional trained adult who has an established relationship with special needs students in the event of a bomb threat or lockdown situation.
- Schools form a positive bond with the local police department which can only strengthen the community as a whole.
- There is no cost to the school.
How does this benefit the families?
- They get to know the police officers are in their area.
- They develop positive feelings about the police department because they see that the officers are interested in getting to know and help their children and families.
- They feel a connection to the department and learn to turn to the police for assistance and in turn become resources for officers and other families.
Chief McCarthy can be contacted through SPEAK Unlimited Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org Additional information can be obtained through Susan Rzucidlo. All copyrights are maintained by SPEAK Unlimited Inc. More information for first responders can be found at www.papremisealert.com All copyrights are maintained by SPEAK Unlimited Inc. More information for first responders can be found at www.papremisealert.com POLICY CHANGE AS OF 6/1/08 All rights reserved contact Susan Rzucidlo at email@example.com for written permission to reproduce. © 2003-13