School resource officers and the quest for safer schools

December 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JOHN LARSON: And now, back to school safety. In the year since the Newtown massacre, the national focus has been on gun laws and mental health programs. But largely out of sight, thousands of schools have implemented changes they hope will keep their students safe. For more about this, we are joined now from Phoenix by Kevin Quinn. He’s the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a non-profit whose mission it is to make schools safe. Mr. Quinn, thank you very much for joining us. Resource officers are, I’m sure, more than just a policeman with a gun standing at the front door. What, exactly, are they?

KEVIN QUINN: Oh, absolutely. You know, school resource officers are properly trained, uh, police officers from the local jurisdiction that are assigned to a school on a full-time basis. Again, like you said, they’re more than just, let’s just put an officer with a gun standing at the front door, waiting for something bad to happen. These officers are completely integrated into the school and into the school system as part of the faculty, as part of the administration team.

JOHN LARSON: Were there resource officers in Newtown?

KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, there are. They had an officer assigned to the junior high school and one school resource officer assigned to the high school.

JOHN LARSON: But not at the elementary school.


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JOHN LARSON: Putting officers in a lot of these schools, obviously very, very expensive. To what extent have the tightening of budgets, especially at the state level, uh, impeded some of these changes?

KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, I’m sure right now, with Sandy Hook only being one year ago, some of the budgets haven’t quite caught up to the needs and the necessities of school safety. Um, I do know that the federal government just released a grant for about 300—little over 300 new school resource officers around the country. That grant was just awarded back in October. So, we’re going to start seeing an increase in the number of school resource officers right now.

JOHN LARSON: Any evidence so far that they’ve been able to interrupt a school shooter coming in?

KEVIN QUINN: You know, there hasn’t really been a lot of school shootings that have occurred on campuses where there is a school resource officer per se. You know, if you think about it, you’ve got a police car sitting in—sitting out in front of the school and you’ve got a police officer on the campus. You know, any kind of outside intruder, they may not pick that school to go on—to go on campus and carry out the attack.

JOHN LARSON: In the year since Newtown, what type of changes have schools been making?

KEVIN QUINN: In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of schools starting to take a step back and—and look at their crisis plans, look at their emergency plans, um, look at school—the physical school security, as well, putting into effect the—the planning, the drills, the practices, and things like that.

JOHN LARSON: In addition to the drills and the planning we’re hearing about some new technologies that are being involved. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, there’s a lot of technology out there now. Everything from automatic locking doors to films that we’ve heard about that—you put a film over windows that enables the glass not to break as easily to bullet-proof backpacks and armored bunkers that you install inside of school buildings.

JOHN LARSON: Now, II’ve read about the bunkers and the bullet-proof backpacks. Are these actually being put into play?

KEVIN QUINN: You know, I haven’t heard of any schools that have actually gone through with it yet. I’ve seen a lot of the marketing out there and I don’t know as far as the cost is concerned if that’s gonna be an obstacle in doing this.

JOHN LARSON: Kevin Quinn joining us tonight from Phoenix. Thanks very much.

KEVIN QUINN: Thank you, sir.