Evolution of Campus Security: Armed Guards or Unarmed Guards?
In the past 40 years, the security guard service industry has majorly evolved and adapted to societal times. Now, there are an abundance of options when it comes to making safety protocols for the students the local government represents on campus. Within the past four decades, there has been a major increase in security threats that have affected schools and the United States education system as a whole.
Many wonder if security guards should be armed on campus, or if police officers should step aside and let unarmed security guards patrol the corridors of school. Security companies can provide armed security guards, patrol services, prevent theft and have years of experience being qualified security professionals.
Security Resource Officers (SRO) vs. School Security Officers (SSO)
A Security Resource Officer (SRO) is that a SRO is a sworn-in police officer who has the powers to arrest. They wear a tactical belt with a weapon, and who is working in the local police department. SRO’s are real police officers.
An SSO is a certified, licensed, and trained security guard who does not have the special privileges that a police officer does have. Many times, research has shown that that is a good thing. From the scholarly journal “Is More Necessarily Better? School Security and Perceptions of Safety among Students and Parents in the United States”, the authors share that “ the ‘overuse’ of security is not without consequences.
To find out how to qualify and the credentials one would need to become a School Safety Officer, visit the BSIS official site and find a program that provides specific training. In July of 2021, Senate Bill Number 390 (SB390) passed, which requires all school security officers employed by a school district in California to complete this specific training course. It was developed by experts in the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) and Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST).
Police often result in higher rates of arrest among students, especially among schools with school resource officers (Theriot, 2009, see also Wolf, 2014). This highlights how security guard officers can be a much safer and more effective choice in general.
Enhancing Student Safety with Unarmed Security Officers
Security guards work as a deterrent for malignant situations, but they also provide another level and layer of protection for the students. If there is an altercation between students or on campus, an SSO can control the situation without authorities being called. In the same article, it is shared that “schools with certain forms of security measures – such as school resource officers – tend to have higher rates of student arrest (Na & Gottfredson, 2013; Theriot, 2009)”.
Empowering a Safer Campus Environment
When students are sent to school, parents want peace of mind knowing they will not be arrested on campus by an individual sworn to protect them. With SSO’s, they do not have the powers to arrest or detain unless a felony has been committed in front of them, and would still have to have reasonable cause to even detain the individual.
While SSO officers go through specific training to work at schools, police departments go through general training and many times, it is shown that they do not choose the best course of action. The same training used to attack perpetrators and detain adult suspects is the training used in many states on children. 21 states still do not require their SRO’s and police departments to learn about safety training.
For example. Florida was the first state to require armed police officers at all of their schools for student protection. Florida does not require any safety training for their guards, but a meager 10 hours a year to touch up on training.
Using force on students is never okay, and it has been shown that when there are not armed police officers patrolling a school, it is actually safer for everyone. Even when there is an active shooter, through data collected, one can see that having an unarmed security guard benefits the children more than having an armed security guard.
Unarmed Security Increases the Safety and Performance of Students
Students genuinely feel safer when they know the police are not around, and another article shows that in Texas, graduation rates were higher when there were not armed police officers on campus. Kids prefer unarmed adults to supervise them, and it was found through research and interviews that unarmed security guards are easier to approach and seek help from, than law enforcement.
In one article, a SSO officer shares how he was hired after the district decided to stop employing SRO officers. “I don’t wear a uniform or have a tactical belt,” [the SSO] said. “So I think I’m more approachable [than the SRO] as a figure around school.”According to [the principal], some students “viewed [the SRO] as a person there to arrest people,” which was one of the reasons the School Safety Officer was brought in.”
This highlights that many districts are now changing their approach to keeping students and faculty safe on campus.
The Role of Security Officers in Campus Safety
Security officers are supposed to be the “extra cushion”, if you will, in between the teachers and students and law enforcement. If a situation were to escalate, then it would be deemed appropriate by the security officer to contact the local police department as soon as possible. Many security officers are also instructed to write hourly reports as well, which is an extra layer of security and reporting that one would not get with SRO’s.
It is clear that with ongoing threats that are inside and outside of campus, security officers are needed for children and for college settings. This does not mean that the police department needs to be more heavily involved in community affairs, but rather the opposite.
Choosing Unarmed Security Officers for Safer Campuses
By outsourcing and hiring a professionally trained school safety security officer, schools can lower the school-to-jail funnel, keep their students and faculty safe, and make the environment more comfortable for everyone. While security officers are needed, unarmed security officers (who are not a part of the official police force) seem to be the safest and smartest choice for a safer campus and safe environment.