To Protect and to Serve: The Impact of Framing on the Perception of School Resource Officers

Date: July 29, 2022
Time: 2:00pm-3:30pm ET

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ABSTRACT

Recent protests against law enforcement have led to motions to take police out of schools. Yet, many districts have chosen to keep their school-based police officers. Little is known about what factors lead people to support or oppose police presence in schools. The purpose of this study was to examine how framing impacts perceptions of school-based police, otherwise known as School Resource Officers (SROs). I tested whether framing SROs as agents of crime control versus safety promotion differentially affected perceptions of these officers’ acceptability and desirability. Overall, participants who read about SROs as safety promoters rated the officers’ presence as significantly more desirable and acceptable than did those who read about SROs as crime control agents. These results suggest that framing has a significant impact on public perception of SROs. Further, when framed as crime control agents, white participants were significantly more accepting of SROs than were non-white participants, while SROs were received as equally acceptable by white and non-white participants when framed as safety promotion officers. On the other hand, there was not a significant interaction of framing and race on SRO desirability for either condition. The main effect of framing did hold for both. Given different stakeholders’ varying views on what roles SROs should and do assume, these results can help policymakers better understand public opinion of and expectations regarding SROs.

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