Police in middle schools worth considering


Our View

July 14, 2011

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a few thousand dollars to steer Howard County youth away from gang life and delinquency will pay for itself many times over.

Police and school officials must hammer out the details, but the county could benefit greatly from introducing the school resource officer to its middle schools.

For 11 years now, Howard County Police have stationed an officer in each of the county's high schools during the day. Now, in the wake of state legislation aimed at quashing gang recruitment and other risky behaviors among those on the threshold of adolescence, county officials are considering putting police officers in three or four middle schools.

At first blush, this might seem extreme. After all, no one is claiming a crime wave in any of the county's middle schools, and their staffs to this point have been up to the task of handling fights and other behavioral issues when they do arise.

This program, however, would be less about enforcing order than about preventing violence, drug abuse and other problems before they can take hold in an age group that is just beginning to stretch its wings and discover an identity distinct from that of their parents. The process is full of trial and error, and it makes people at this age particularly susceptible to destructive influences.

If, after careful study, officials of the county government, the school system and police agree that cops would be the best point people for this task — and that's not a given — the money for hiring and training these officers would be money well spent.

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