A survey of police officers assigned to secondary schools in Scotland has found that as well as cutting the number of police call-outs to schools, the officers help to improve communication between the police and troubled youngsters, build up greater trust and tackle problems before they escalate.
The study, entitled The Scottish Campus Officer: Past, Present and Future, was co-authored by academics from Glasgow Caledonian University and Robert Gordon University.
The researchers interviewed most of the 55 police officers (known as campus officers) based in 65 Scottish secondary schools.
One campus officer told them: “When I first went to the school, within three months I had charged two kids and detained another two. I have not charged a kid for a school offence in over 18 months.”
Another said: “I would say that there are fewer young people involved in gangs and gang fighting. Young people may still be aligned to gangs by their geographical location but they are not engaging in gang fighting in the way they did before.”
Campus officers were first introduced in Scottish schools in 2002. Their role involves developing strong links with young people and their communities, building relationships with pupils and staff and giving advice on a range of topics, from bullying to drugs.
“Our work suggests that, in the main, campus officers have had a number of positive impacts, including reducing the number of violent incidents and call-outs in and around schools and building strong, long-lasting relationships with pupils,” said Dr Liz Frondigoun, one of the report’s co-authors.
Meanwhile Karyn McCluskey, director of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Campus officers play a vital role in helping to strengthen the relationship between the police, young people and the community.
“They’re not there to police schools, but to support the local area. The relationships they help to build can have the kind of positive impact that sees not just a reduction in crime but also an increase in young people from a whole range of backgrounds looking to join the police.”
The report also highlighted the fact that campus officers would like more training and guidance in order to improve the support they offer schools.