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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Police in schools: Is it a good idea?
Police officers are being stationed at secondary schools in one of London's boroughs where crime has been a persistent problem.
Southwark in south London was the scene of the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor last November.
It is hoped the police presence will deter crime in schools and make it easier for vulnerable young people to report offences.
A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said the scheme did not represent a step towards American-style school security, but hoped that it would break down the "wall of silence" that surrounded so much crime in and around schools.
Is it a good idea? Will it help to break down barriers in communities?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The next step will be policemen in every home to make sure we behave ourselves in a fashion that they deem 'acceptable'.
State influence in our lives is already too great - we should be reducing it, not increasing it.
Oli, London, England
Surely the problems are caused by the children that aren't in school. Shouldn't the police be out on the streets trying to tackle them instead of in school scaring the borderline troublemakers away from attending?
It is a shame that it has come to this, but there is a need. If I were a parent, I would not complain - the police are hardly going to cause trouble. A heavy-handed approach is needed to protect our children; they are our most precious asset. A 10 year old was killed - surely that is a sign that police presence - however drastic it may seem - is required, so no one else has to pay for crime with their life. Better police than the situation they have in some USA schools - where all pupils must have see-through bags to prevent them bringing weapons into school.
It's just a shame the police can't make the children work in the classroom as well. As for the extra cost - well, maybe all the politicians will have to live up to their hollow promises of more police (nurses/teachers too) in order to cover the need. This issue cannot be ignored.
The main problem is that most school age criminals know they are so over-protected by the law that they are virtually untouchable. Unfortunately this is the flipside of the well-meaning efforts of child protection lobbies - the guilty derive immunity from the protection of the innocent.
Crazy! Big Brother is here to stay. What a pitiful control-freaked, bunch of sheep we are. Who needs a general election? Ask the cops!
If successive governments over the years had not eroded the powers of teachers in respect of punishing kids, there would not be the need for police officers to be stationed in schools. But it's a damn good idea!!
No. The very presence of police in schools makes students/pupils suspicious of one another, even if the police don't do anything. This is the voice of personal experience talking.
In my old high school recently a teacher was pistol whipped by a student. Most teenagers now carry weapons on them as freely as I carry my mobile phone, for these reasons. The idea to put police into troublesome schools is a brilliant one but I feel it will never work because children now have no respect for authority figures.
The issue of putting police in your schools has long been a salient issue for us in the United States. I believe that what this indicates is a breakdown of the tradition nuclear family structure. Increasing violence and crime in your schools is merely a symptom of a deeper underlying social disease - something Americans have been dealing with for some time now, but which is increasingly taking root in other areas of the world. As an American, my idea would be to punish the parents of kids who misbehave, because they are obviously not parenting correctly. Putting Big Brother in control is not the answer. You people in England are making the same mistake as the Americans: trying to cure the symptoms, and not the root cause of the problem. If police help to stem the wave of violence and crime, then good for that, but what a way to live for a kid.
I believe a police presence is warranted, but only as a stop-gap measure. However, all that crime doesn't just evaporate in the presence of cops, it just shifts to other, less conspicuous areas. If you want to eliminate crime, stop reacting to its symptoms, and focus on eliminating its source: poverty, lack of education, mental illness, boredom, etc.. Focus on prevention, not punishment. Teach kids to respect each other, don't tolerate ignorance and abuse by passing it off as "children just being children".
I'm very concerned about violence at schools and have realised that it is a problem not just in my country. The same situations take place in Argentina, the US and in many countries all over the world. I think that violence has something to do with the lack of family relationships and poor communication.
It seems that Britain is destined to follow the example of schools in America.
Steve Fuller, England
I don't know whether it will break down barriers, but it may save some lives.
We have multiple CCTV cameras in our school.
We went home for the Easter holidays and one was missing.
Wonder where it went?
What an excellent idea to station police officers at schools, but, so long as police officers are stationed at hospitals, old people's homes, in fact why not have a police officer stationed in every street in the UK?
Now that is what I call community safety, but lets not get carried away with silly ideas, lets make parents responsible for their children's behaviour just like they do in most of the EU countries. If you are to be a parent examine the responsibility of being one beforehand. Lets us not rely on the police, teachers or politicians to educate our children who are the adults of the future
Was Damilola killed
inside the school?
Put the police on our streets and forget the school gate. A policeman at the school wouldn't have
prevented the killing of Damilola
but a policeman on the street may have prevented it.
Police already come to schools to give road safety, Drugs and other safety talks.
Bringing them in may even help "crime fringe" pupils to appreciate their community value, and not regard them as "the enemy."
Paul B, UK
To all those saying bring back the cane; these days any teacher attempting to cane someone who's earned it will probably end up in hospital. I'd say it's a damning indictment of our society that policing is required in our schools at all. Frankly, the budding thugs terrorising our schools have denied themselves the right to a civilised education and should be sent to an old fashioned army boot camp to attain an education on terms they can comprehend - namely cause and effect - a taste of their own medicine would do no harm at all.
As a serving officer, I know most of us sent to schools have our own kids, and have the skills to deal with small kids effectively. I'm sorry to note some contributors see fit to accuse us all of arrogance, stupidity and incompetence, probably without ever having met more than a couple of us. Isn't that the same mass stereotyping that we always get accused of? Besides - when the dealers are outside your school, selling heroin to your kids, getting them into burglary and prostitution to pay for it, won't you actually want us there? Try joining the specials, see what the problem is really like and actually do something about it yourself, don't just bleat on here!
To be honest I don't think some of the young thugs in these schools will care too much whether there's one policeman on the front gates or an entire patrol. If they show little or no respect to their own parents, teachers, general public et al, I'm pretty sure they will cock a snook at the police because, let's face it, what can the law do to these people? There have been so many instances where teenage (and pre-teen) burglars have been arrested many, many times over but are set free because there is very little the law can actually do! Toughen up the laws, make justice fair and show a bit more discipline and we might get some results.
Jenni, Bristol, England
I have yet to meet a cultured or intelligent policeman, so let's hope they can learn something while they're back in school. Maybe the teachers could lay on some lessons in 'manners and humility' too?
They should never have done away with the 'cane', it never did me any harm or any of the people that I went to school with. I say, Bring it back.
Colin Holloway, England
The more important area for progress is the building of rapport between the school students and police in the local area. A police liaison attends our school regularly to present programmes for the students. When issues arise that need the support of the police, they will come and speak with those students who need to understand the law. When there are celebrations in the school, the liaison officer will be present. Far more important to have police presence about the school in a positive manner than in the threatening and posturing manner of a 'cop on the beat!'
It's about time violence in schools was recognised for what it is - criminal activity. A teacher's primary role is to educate, not to control or rehabilitate those who have contempt for morality and responsibility. The role of the police is to protect society and, whilst a reluctant admission, our children need that protection even in school.
The way many youngsters behave nowadays, I think authority is sadly lacking and yes, it would certainly be a good idea to have police patrolling the schools. In fact I think youth clubs should be adjacent to police stations and the old law of two's company, three's a crowd reintroduced to thwart street gangs.
Alison Rowe, Scotland, UK
The biggest mistake the UK government did was to outlaw caning in the public school system. Its results have been dire, thus you want to turn the UK education system into a US one where the police are involved in the daily lives of the students.
This is treating the symptom, not the disease.
The problem will not be licked until a way is found of instilling into all youngsters, and older people too, a proper code of conduct, concern for the well being of other members of the community and respect for public and private property.
Probably cheaper than teachers, after the last pay round.
Bring back the cane - did the job at my school!
Police in schools, Police state. Nothing more needs to be said.
Ross Farrell, GB
I'm a tad ambivalent about this but I think it's significant that few of the poo-pooers offer any alternative proposals other than some woolly half-thought ideas. I say we give it a go, using all the experiences we can muster (yes, even American ones!) but be prepared to learn and adjust.
I felt I had to respond to Neil Pearce who is concerned that the police will stand at the school gates and use speed cameras. Hopefully they will! Speeding past a school and parking illegally outside schools is a major threat to the safety of our children. Police SHOULD do everything in their power to stop this. I suppose Mr Pearce is one of those who thinks that the police should stop 'harassing' drivers doing 100mph plus on motorways instead of concentrating on 'real' criminals. Grow up Mr Pearce - and let our children do the same, safely.
The problem lies not with the need for additional costly policing, but strict Government policy to curb and punish the offenders. The inability of the Law to curb disorder leads to total disillusionment in the Police. And only leads to a free for all for all those who wish to break the law.
Steven Charlesworth, England
A police/security presence in schools does not necessarily prevent tragedy. Such stringent measures would not be necessary if society had not abdicated its role in teaching children right from wrong and insisting on standards of behaviour. This is a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has run off. There will always be members of society who will seek to circumvent the rules and will see this as a challenge. Do something about the thug element in schools and allow the children who want to learn, to do so in a comfortable environment free from aggression and threat. This is not the long-term solution and is a quick fix.
As a teacher in the USA and a frequent visitor to Great Britain...I believe police in schools will make a world of difference over there. We have an officer at our school here and it has helped on several fronts. One, the students have someone to go to when there is a crisis, such as threats of violence and things of that nature. Secondly, just the mere presence of an officer in our school has deterred crime quite a bit and other unruly behaviour. Believe me just having an officer in the schools will make children think twice about many things.
Michael Gahan, Ireland
I think that it is to be commended that the Metropolitan Police Service are taking action to stop crime and violence in school. I do however agree that they are blind to the fact that this could lead to the introduction of the US style security in school. I do not, however, disagree with the US method as it has proved very successful and if it can prevent another death such as Damilola Taylor, then it has to be worth a try.
I am a Deputy Sheriff assigned to a high school in Florida. I have been a school resource officer for six years now. I love my job and I have found it is a great way to build a rapport with kids. I teach classes, counsel students, sponsor a club for surfers, and handle any crisis on campus. It takes a special officer to work in a school setting, and I believe it will help break down barriers in the United Kingdom as it has in the United States.
And what is to happen "outside" the school grounds when people from ethnic minorities are targeted on the streets?
What we need here is not to create "fear" but educate.
Until we educate our children on tolerance and acceptance no amount of armed forces can make an iota of difference.
I think the kids of today need every bit of protection they can get. I believe a lot of children suffer in silence in fear of being victimised should they report any form of crime. The presence of police in schools is probably the most effective way of stopping any future violence, drugs, bullying etc. It's a shame, but this is the reality of the society in which we now live.
Schools are not jails - it is a learning institution and should be treated like one. Placing police in the schools is going to make the children feel bad about themselves. To fix this problem the school system needs to develop a method that takes safety, respect and dignity into consideration when dealing with the future of tomorrow. I am proud to be British and love the way we handle our own problems so lets not look to another country with worse problems for ideas.
The police need to be seen as authority figures, not as everybody's best friend. The reason people didn't come forward with evidence about the murder of Damilola is because they were afraid of the criminals, not because they were afraid of the police. People will be less afraid of criminals when the police are seen as efficient and empowered rather than matey.
No doubt they'll spend the majority of their time at standing at the school gates with speed cameras and enforcing on the spot fines for any crisp packets dropped during playtime.
It sounds like the Metropolitan Police are in denial towards 'American-style school security' because it certainly sounds like that is the course UK schools are heading for. Rightly so, as violence amongst children in the UK seems on the rise.
Several of my teaching friends have taught in the UK and they have never come across such badly behaved, unruly kids than they did when teaching in London, compared to what they were used to in Australia.
Andrew Cover, UK
It's a brilliant way to spy on households via their children.
Placing police in schools is an excellent idea. The standards of civil decency and respect for society is on a sorry path of degeneration amongst the British youth.
Having police officers so close to children on a day to day basis could well help make the next generation of adults more responsible. It would also show 'out of control' children that choosing crime is for the cowardly, weak and idle and that they can have a successful and happy life doing things the right way. This is, of course, assuming there is little interference from those wishy washy liberals who feel that crime is just a child's way of 'expressing themselves'!
08 May 01 | Education
School beat officers tackle pupil crime
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