Ever wonder what I am talking about when I mention community-oriented policing?
Well, here’s a good, real-life example.
The following is from a recent interview with a Madison police officer who is assigned to a city high school.
While he was assigned as a school resource officer (or ERO, Educational Resources Officer), I maintain the work he is doing is the kind of work I expect can happen in each and every city neighborhood. Officer Mosley’s connection with the students, teachers, and administrators at his high school should be no different from the kind of contacts, collaboration, and problem-solving that can go on in all our nation’s cities and their neighborhoods.
This is how police in a democracy should work. It’s time is dismantle the domination system and fully adopt this style of policing.
The following are some excerpts from the full article:
“Officer Ken Mosley has been moving a long time toward his job in the hallways and classrooms of La Follette High School on Madison’s east side.
Mosley, 38, started his career teaching third grade and seventh-grade social studies in the Milwaukee Public School system. The classroom was his first love, and Mosley thought he would be a teacher forever, he says, but grew frustrated with limitations on how much he could do to help students struggling with an array of family issues that left some homeless or hungry or getting through the winter without a coat. He ventured into social work and, as part of a crisis response unit, worked with psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to defuse incidents involving adolescents — perhaps homicidal or suicidal — who had been diagnosed with mental illness. He became a police officer to protect the most vulnerable — including young people, he says. Now married and the father of three, Mosley is the educational resources officer (ERO) at La Follette, where he works to build relationships with students and demonstrate the helping side of police work. Even before the implementation of a new behavior education plan in the school district this year, La Follette was employing restorative justice practices that let students bring citations issued in or out of school to a youth court, and work together to repair interpersonal harm in structured talk circles. ‘We focus on restorative practices versus punitive measures,’ he said.
“Cap Times: Your work history would seem to have prepared you well to be a police officer stationed at a high school.
“Ken Mosley: It’s helped me out greatly. As an ERO, you are doing 60 percent social work and 40 percent enforcement. I wear many hats: I’m a parent, an educator, a social worker, and there are those rare cases where I enforce the law. Some students are considered throwaways by their parents; I work with school and Dane County social workers to come up with the best placement plan for them. Most of the kids who have violent episodes have unmet mental health needs. We need to bridge that gap.
“When are you at the school? Where do you hang out?
I’m there for the school day — 8 to 4. I hang out all over the school; I’m rarely in my office. I’m out visible to everyone and accessible to all. I’m asking kids how their weekend was, how they are doing. An effective ERO builds rapport with students and gets to know their families.
“What do kids approach you with?
All sorts of issues. It could be the speeding ticket they got out in the community. They’re asking me for advice. If the officer who issued the ticket approves — and in most cases they do — I’m able to pull that ticket and it goes to youth court. Students approach me with details of potential violence — there’s going to be a fight outside during lunch — and I’m able to intervene. You have to know the dynamics of the school.
What about when there is a disruptive or even violent incident? How do you typically get involved?
It depends. They may call me on the radio, I may see something in the hallway, or hear the commotion. It’s taken on a case-by-case basis, depending on the student. Is this a special needs student? Does this kid have diagnosed mental health issues? Does this kid have a behavior intervention plan? You have to know those things.
What about incidents that are not violent but break the law, like possession of marijuana?
For a small amount of marijuana, I’d prefer to let the school handle that with disciplinary action. I don’t see a ticket as being beneficial. Maybe they have long-term needs, like an AODA referral. I’d document the incident and property tag the marijuana.
How does your presence at the school change the climate?
It changes it drastically. Having on officer in the school is a deterrent, but an ERO also has a finger on the pulse of the school. We’re a team member, just like any teacher, principal or social worker. You build trust with the students and get to know what helps them, what sets them off — versus a cop called in off the street who is more likely to make an arrest. Plus a portion of kids have a distrust of police, because all their encounters with officers have been negative. I get a way to change that; I see them daily, talk with them casually, show an interest in them. They get to see policing from a positive side — I think that’s huge.
Do you think the new behavior education plan will make a difference?
We’ve been doing restorative practices at La Follette since I’ve been there. Punitive measures are a last resort. But the behavior education plan is a work in progress. I think long-term it will be effective, but like any new system you have to test it and get the bugs out.
“Are you ever called to investigate an incident that happened outside school with kids in school?
I’d say that’s 30 to 40 percent of my work. That’s the good thing about having an ERO. Frequently when something happens, students or their families don’t call 911, they wait to come to school and tell me about it…”
CLICK HERE to read the full article which appeared Dec. 7, 2014 by Pat Schneider in the Capital Times.