B. School Resource Officers
In recent years, the prevalence of police officers (called school resource officers or SROs) in schools has increased in conjunction with the adoption of zero-tolerance policies, allowing law enforcement to more easily intervene in school disciplinary matters. During the early 1990s, SROs were uncommon in many parts of the country. However, in 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice established the COPS in Schools program "to help law enforcement agencies hire new, additional school resource officers ... to engage in community policing in and around primary and secondary schools." The program has provided in excess of $753 million to local law enforcement agencies, allowing those agencies to hire more than 6,500 SROs.
These officers serve as direct conduits between schools and juvenile justice systems, allowing police officers to handle behavioral problems from the start. For example, in Clayton County, Georgia, police were placed on school campuses in 1994. That year, the number of referrals from the school system to law enforcement increased by 1,248%. Approximately 90% of the referrals were based on infractions that were previously addressed by *1261 school administrators. Similar trends have occurred in other parts of the country, suggesting that the presence of SROs in schools "may increase the likelihood that students will be arrested for misconduct that otherwise would be addressed as a discipline issue."