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Clark, Lawrence Strausser, Donna

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What is the difference between a school police officer and a school resource officer?

In Pennsylvania, law enforcement officers who work within a school district generally fall into to two categories: school police officer and school resource officer.

Both, to varying degrees, have policing authority within the district.

One of the main differences between the two designations is who employs the officers.

School resource officers are employees of the police department that has jurisdiction where the school is located.

For example, a school resource officer for a school district would be assigned to work within the district but would have policing powers throughout the municipality that the municipal police department covers.

“(The officer) is assigned to that school on a full- or part-time basis to perform their law enforcement duties within the school,” Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Adam Reed said. “They also play a big part in educating the students about things like drugs, alcohol and safe driving.”

School police officers, on the other hand, are employees of the school district itself, Reed said.

“A school police officer is part of a police department that was started by the school and for the school, specifically,” he said. “They would only have enforcement powers on school grounds.”

Beyond the jurisdiction being within the school district, school police officers have more restricted policing powers than school resource officers or other officers with a municipal police department.

According to state law, courts may grant school police officers the authority “to issue citations for summary offenses or the authority to detain students until the arrival of local law enforcement, or any combination thereof. “

The Carlisle Area School District recently voted to expand policing powers for four of its 16 school police officers to allow them to issue citations for things like traffic violations or illegal parking.

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