By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On Wednesday, March 21, Etowah County, Attalla City and Gadsden City school administrators gathered at the Pitman Theatre to listen to Maurice “Mo” Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), speak about the challenges of school safety.
In a second session, Canady spoke to school resource officers and other law enforcement officials from throughout Etowah County at the Etowah County Sherrif’s Office.
Canady is from Albertville. He graduated from Jacksonville State University with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice, before moving on to 25-year career at the Hoover Police Department.
After retirement, he began working at NASRO.With NASRO, Canady is considered an expert in school safety and often speaks on the subject nationally.
Canady spoke about the benefits of having a school resource officer (SRO). In addition to providing more security at schools, SROs can bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth, increase positive attitudes towards law enforcement, teach the value of the legal system, promote respect towards people and property and reduce juvenile delinquency.
In order to do this, SROs must be carefully selected. They must be sworn law enforcement officers, be interested in working with children, have high moral standards and good judgement, operate with consistency and fairness and have a sincere concern for the school and community.
SROs should also be specifically trained for the job. Canady said that additional specialized training can be plus, as the most tactically efficient officers would be beneficial if a situation occurs on campus.
“Without proper training, SROs can make serious mistakes that at best cause short-term difficulties and at worst jepardize the entire program,” said Canady.
Canady also touched on the topic of school shootings, as NASRO trained with the school system in Maryland that had a school shooting Tuesday, March 20.
“Anytime we have a shooting, that’s the worst of the worst days,” said Canady.
In Maryland, the SRO arrived within a minute of a shooter injuring two students and stopped the armed student.
“What you saw was an SRO who was properly selected and properly trained and did what they are supposed to do,” said Canady.
The SRO was previosly a SWAT team member. Canady said that good marksmen should be utilized as SROs.
“If you are going to have to fire a round as an SRO in a school enviroment, you better not miss,” said Canady. “If you do, there’s a liklihood of it hitting an innocent victim.”
Canady recommended that schools and law enforcement agencies sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a SRO program, in order to determine hours, office space, responsibilty for providing supplies, interview procedures and parking.
If possible, Canady suggested parking a marked vehicle in front of the school because a “marked patrol car is a good deterrent.”
Canady shared statistics on juvenile crimes. Between 1994 and 2009, juvenile arrests fell nearly 50 percent, which coincides with the expansion of the SRO programs.
“This is not just in schools, this is nationwide,” said Canady.
Canady shared that schools are safer now, as well.
“Over the past two decades, America’s schools have become safer and safer,” said Canady. “I know it doesn’t feel like it. The schools statistically have become safer. Part of that is because we have been paying more attention to it.”
Canady said that the recent nationally covered school shootings are traumatic and make crime seem like it is increasing in schools.
“When you have a shooting, it feels like crime has gone up, but statistically it hasn’t,” said Canady. “These things are so high profile and horrific that it grabs our attention.”