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Office of Safety & Security 
New In-House Police Department
& School Resource Officer (SRO) Program
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will launch an internal Police Department that will provide School Resource Officers assigned to provide safety and security for all APS students, staff, and its campuses. The new APS Police Department is part of the district’s all new Office of Safety and Security approved by the Atlanta Board of Education in early 2016. In collaboration with staff, parents, communities, and local law enforcement partners, the district aims to align its safety and security measures to meet the unique needs of its learning environment.

1. Who are School Resource Officers?
School Resource Officers (SRO) are sworn law enforcement officers who are specially selected and trained to promote safety within schools. Unlike the largely adult populations served by patrol officers or road deputies, internal SROs predominately serve youth in schools. In recent years, more school districts have structurally brought safety and security resources into the school district organization for increased focus, control, and stability across school campuses. Atlanta Public Schools will hire and manage its own force of School Resources Officers in 2016.

2. Why is Atlanta Public Schools hiring its own internal School Resource Officers?

APS wants student-centered, in-house SROs who are specially trained and are philosophically aligned with its social and emotional learning approach, and a national TRIAD model that involves law enforcement officers serving as informal counselors and educators. The district believes this approach will foster safe, orderly teaching and learning environments. APS currently contracts with the Atlanta Police Department and external law enforcement partners to keep its students, staff and schools safe.  The APD agreement will end in June 2016 .

3. What are the key benefits of hiring School Resource Officers?
Atlanta Public Schools sees many benefits of managing its own Police Department with in-house SROs in its schools. They include:
• Improve school safety and reduce school-based crime
• Diminish classroom time spent on discipline and behavioral disruptions
• Connect at-risk students to needed services, divert youth from juvenile court, and create safe, secure, and peaceful school environments.
• Increase feelings of safety among students, teachers, and administrators
• Improve relationships between law enforcement and youth

See the National Center Brief “School Resource Officers: Steps to effective school-based law enforcement” http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/SRO%20Brief.pdf case for high-quality SRO Programs pg. 3.


4. What is Social and Emotional Learning?
Atlanta Public Schools has made Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) a district priority. SEL is the ability to control your emotions and actions, develop good relationships, and make good decisions. The district is training teachers and other staff on these proven SEL approaches to address social behaviors and self-awareness among themselves and our students. As the district looks at improving the ways it can better educate and prepare students from this standpoint, it is appropriate to have an in-house Police Department that aligns with this priority while it provides security and protection for students and staff.

5. How do School Resource Officers fit into the overall new structure?

An executive director of Safety and Security provides oversight and accountability for the APS Office of Safety and Security. The new structure includes a Police Department managed by a chief of police with a command staff of six supervisors including two lieutenants, three sergeants and one school crossing guard supervisor. Three investigators will support the unit by investigating crimes that require extensive and thorough review. The Police Department will have 55 SROs who will be assigned to middle and high schools and fulltime substitute SROs who will be assigned to support clusters of elementary schools when they are not on assignment at other locations. Supervisors will also assist with additional assignments as needed and will be required to ensure the district has a consistent security presence in the schools.

6. Will APS School Resource Officers be “real” cops?
Yes. According to Georgia state law, the Atlanta Public Schools Police Department (APS-PD) officers will have all the powers of any peace or police officer in the State of Georgia. Officers receive the same basic academy training as local, sworn police officers. Furthermore, the law provides that the Atlanta Public Schools Police Department is the primary agency responsible for policing property owned, leased, and operated or controlled by Atlanta Public Schools.
 
To better serve the APS community, the Atlanta Public Schools Police Department (APS-PD) will have a “concurrent jurisdiction agreement” with the Atlanta Police Department, which gives APS-PD officers the authority to enforce the law within the limits of the city of Atlanta. SROs’ primary jurisdiction is school property; however, as first responders, they have a responsibility to take action when necessary to restore order and can make arrests anywhere within the Atlanta city limits.

7. Do neighboring metropolitan Atlanta school districts have in-house Police Department with School Resource Officers?

Yes. Currently Clayton County Public Schools, Fulton County Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools have in-house police departments.

8. When will the new in-house operations begin?
The new in-house Office of Safety and Security includes a Police Department, Emergency Management, and Security Operations and will launch in the 2016-2017 school year.

9. How will the Internal School Resource Officer Program impact APS students, staff and communities?
The new Office of Safety and Security’s Police Department will offer more efficient and effective internal operations and support resources to employees that will foster safe, orderly teaching and learning environments. The district is hiring individuals who philosophically align with the district’s social emotional learning approach, and a national TRIAD model that involves law enforcement officers serving as informal counselors and educators to accomplish this mission. SROs will have staffing assignments and focused training to achieve the district’s safety objectives.

10. Will the district continue to partner with the Atlanta Police Department?

APD will remain an integral partner in promoting safety and security for Atlanta Public Schools. In addition, we will continue to employ part-time off-duty officers, APD officers, and county sheriff deputies to provide coverage as needed for after-school events. 

11. What happens if an officer is, absent from a fulltime or part-time assignment?
The Police Chief/designee will assign a substitute officer to the school. 
 
12. Do the SRO assignments include APS charter schools?
Charter schools may contract with the district to hire full-time SROs as part of the APS buy-back program. The cost for a school resource officer is charged at the rate of pay commensurate with salary and benefits determined by the Atlanta Public Schools Human Resources Compensation Department. The APS Chief of Police supervises charter school-based SROs and they are governed by the same standard operating procedures as SROs assigned to other schools.

12. What happens if a charter school does not want to participate in the buy-back services program for a full-time SRO?
The charter school will work with the APS Chief of Police to recruit, hire, train, and assign a certified sworn part-time police officer to provide law enforcement services to the school community. The cost for services will be provided at an hourly rate of $30 per hour. The part-time SRO will assume the same duties and responsibilities as a full-time SRO with the exception of benefits and they will be limited to no more than 29 hours per week. These officers will be supervised under the leadership of the Chief of Police and they are governed by the same standard operating procedures as SROs assigned to other schools.

13. How will charter schools reimburse the district for services?
The Office of Safety & Security will invoice the schools monthly for services.

14. Who will serve as the point of contact for the charter schools?
The Chief of Police or designee will provide oversight for the charter school’s full- and part-time officer assignments.

15. Can charter schools decide to participate in only traffic assignments?
Yes. Charter schools may choose to contract for part-time traffic officers. The charter school principal should make the request to the Police Chief/designee. An officer will be assigned at a rate of $30 per hour up to 29 hours per week. Schools will be invoiced monthly for these services through the buy-back program.

17. How should APS charter schools determine its timeframe for Safety & Security services?
APS charter schools should align their safety and security services with the district’s charter school contract timeframe. This will ensure a full-time, dedicated SRO assignment as well as sustainable staffing and budget planning for the life of the charter school.
Examples
A newly approved APS charter school, with a 5-year contract renewal period would commit to a full-time, dedicated SRO for five (5) years. 
An existing APS charter school with three (3) years remaining in its charter contract would commit to a full-time, dedicated SRO for three (3) years.

18. For APS charter schools, how is commitment to Safety & Security service defined?
 
To ensure sustainable staffing and budget planning, commitment to a full-time, dedicated SRO assigned to an APS charter school must match the number of years remaining in the full term/life of the school’s charter contract.
Examples:
A newly approved APS charter school, with a 5-year contract renewal period would commit to a full-time, dedicated SRO for five (5) years. 
An existing APS charter school with three (3) years remaining in its charter contract would commit to a full-time, dedicated SRO for three (3) years. 

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