The purpose of this research was to develop an accurate description of the current involvement of law enforcement in schools. The researchers sought to identify the range of roles played by law enforcement, and to explore factors associated with different levels and types of law enforcement involvement in schools. Furthermore, the researchers sought to provide a foundation for understanding what might be the optimal role(s) for law enforcement in schools.
The researchers administered a school survey (Part 1) as well as a law enforcement survey (Part 2 and Part 3).
The school survey was designed specifically for this research, but it did incorporate items from previous surveys, particularly the School Survey on Crime and Safety (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000) and the National Assessment of School Resource Officer Programs Survey of School Principals (Abt Associates, Inc., 2000). The researchers pretested the instrument with a sample of school principals from the greater Cincinnati area. The school surveys were then sent out to a total of 3,156 school principals between January 2002 and May 2002. The researchers followed Dillman's mail survey design (a presurvey notification letter informing the recipient that a questionnaire would be arriving, followed by the questionnaire mailing, reminder postcard, and two subsequent mailings) and received a total of 1,387 completed surveys.
The common core of data did not contain principal names, so the researchers searched for principal names in PATTERSON'S ELEMENTARY EDUCATION guidebook to schools and whenever possible, included principal names on correspondence. Since the researchers had not achieved the expected response rate, they chose to do a fourth survey mailing. In addition, they randomly selected 100 nonresponding schools and called the principals. The phone calls served several purposes: (1) to find out if the principals had received the questionnaire, (2) to ask if they had any questions or concerns about the survey, and (3) to stress the importance of the study. The research team was rarely able to speak with the principals directly, so the vast majority of calls required leaving messages for principals. While only 2 principals returned the phone calls, the researchers ultimately received 19 completed surveys from the 100 schools that they contacted. It cannot be determined if these calls caused these principals to complete the questionnaire, but it seems likely that the calls served as a reminder for those principals who were considering completing the survey.
Surveys sent to the schools requested that each school identify their primary and secondary law enforcement providers. "Primary" law enforcement agencies were those identified as the agency that would respond to an emergency call from the school. "Secondary" agencies were those with whom the schools had contact, but which would not receive the emergency call. Surveys were then sent to those identified primary law enforcement agencies (Part 2) and secondary law enforcement agencies (Part 3) in August 2002.
Part 2 and Part 3 each contain 3,156 cases. That number matches the original sample size of schools. For Part 2 and Part 3, a total of 1,508 law enforcement surveys were sent to both primary and secondary law enforcement agencies (this number is greater than the number of completed school surveys because 119 schools listed both primary and secondary law enforcement agencies on which they can rely, and law enforcement surveys were sent for two schools that ultimately counted as nonresponders). The researchers received 1,060 completed surveys from the primary law enforcement agencies (Part 2) and 86 completed surveys from the secondary law enforcement agencies (Part 3). The surveys had to be sent in several batches because some schools had not identified the law enforcement agency on which they relied. To deal with this situation, theresearchers made phone calls to the schools, and when schools could not be reached, they researched what law enforcement agencies were likely to serve those schools.
The United States Department of Education's Common Core of Data contains information on nearly 90,000 public schools in the United States. The researchers used these data to select a sample of schools (n = 3,156). A sample proportionate to the population of schools (N = 88,511) was selected based on the following variables: state (all 50 states and Washington, DC), type of school (regular, special education, vocational, other/alternative), location (large city, mid-sized city, urban fringe large city, urban fringe mid-sized city, large town, small town, rural-outside MSA, or rural-inside MSA), Title-I eligible, school-wide Title-I programs, whether the school was a magnet or charter school, grade span of the school, and number of grades in the school.
Part 1: All elementary, middle, junior high, junior/senior high, and other ("other" typically refers to K-12) schools in the United States from January 2002 to May 2002. Part 2: All "primary" law enforcement agencies serving public schools in the United States in August 2008. Part 3: All "secondary" law enforcement agencies serving public schools in the United States in August 2008.
Part 2: law enforcement agency
Part 3: law enforcement agency
Part 1: school
Part 1, School Survey Data, included a total of 309 variables pertaining to school characteristics, type of law enforcement relied on by the schools, school resource officers, frequency of public law enforcement activities, teaching activities of law enforcement officers, frequency of private security activities, safety plans and meetings with law enforcement, and crime/disorder in schools. In regard to the frequency of public law enforcement activities and the frequency of private security officers' activities in school, the school survey included a broad range of possible activities in which law enforcement and private security officers could be involved at schools. Besides questions that had yes/no responses, the researchers asked principals to report how frequently police and private security were involved in various activities. Categories of these types of activities included law enforcement activities, advise/mentoring activities with staff, advise/mentoring with groups, advise/mentoring with students or families, and presence at school events. In regard to crime/disorder in schools, variables measure the total number of various types of offenses as well as the reported number of offenses, according to principals.
Part 2, Primarily Relied Upon Law Enforcement Agency Survey Data, and Part 3, Secondarily Relied Upon Law Enforcement Agency Survey Data, each contain 161 variables relating to school resource officers, frequency of public law enforcement activities, teaching activities of law enforcement agencies, safety plans and meetings with schools, and crime/disorder in schools reported to police according to primary/secondary law enforcement. Concerning school resource officers, variable measure the perceptions of law enforcement about why their corresponding schools did or did not have school resource officers. In regard to the frequency of primary and secondary public law enforcement activities, variables measure the following categories of activities: law enforcement activities, advise/mentoring activities with staff, advise/mentoring with groups, advise/mentoring with students or families, and presence at school events. In relation to crime/disorder in schools, variables in Part 2 and Part 3 include the total number of various incidents reported to the police.
For Part 1, the researchers originally sent out 3,156 surveys to schools. They removed 50 schools from the sample for several reasons, including school closings and surveys that were returned by the post office as undeliverable. For surveys that were returned to the researchers, they attempted to find the correct address and resend these surveys. Many of these questionnaires continued to be returned to the research team as undeliverable. Since these surveys never reached the schools, these cases were removed from the sample. The researchers received 1,387 completed surveys from 3,106 principals, a response rate of 44.7 percent.
For Part 2 and Part 3, a total of 1,508 law enforcement surveys were sent to both primary and secondary law enforcement agencies (this number is greater than the number of completed school surveys because 119 schools listed both primary and secondary law enforcement agencies on which they can rely, and law enforcement surveys were sent for two schools that ultimately counted as nonresponders). One law enforcement agency was removed from the sample, since the agency no longer exists. The researchers received 1,140 public law enforcement surveys, a 75.6 percent response rate. The research team also received 4 private security surveys, but did not include these in their analyses.