Police and law enforcement are critical to keeping our communities safe. They are trained to address serious criminal behaviors that negatively impact public safety, public health, and communities’ well-being. Police are desperately needed to address the complex challenges associated with serious criminal activity. When police respond to minor or even trivial developmentally-normal behavior like talking back or a pushing and shoving match, we waste their expertise and compromise public safety at the same time.
In many places where police are overused or misused in schools in this way, young people also begin to resent and distrust them. It is commonplace for young people to lose faith in the goodwill of police when they believe they are being treated unfairly in their schools. And, unfortunately, these feelings continue beyond the schoolhouse doors. They might actually become antagonistic toward police as a result. In fact, research shows that when an officer on the street encounters someone who has a negative association with them and their colleagues, it becomes more likely that a violent incident will occur, or that a situation will escalate. As many police and law enforcement officials recognize, having strong relationships with communities and young people is critical to keeping schools and streets safe.
The domino effect that occurs from having negative or unnecessary interactions with police in schools, then, can greatly affect society-at-large.