Nowhere is the fishbowl of modern policing more intense than in our nation’s high schools. In many ways, it’s a double fishbowl:
First and foremost, law enforcement, school resource officers, staff, and first responders are under intense scrutiny. But on top of that, students live in an intense social media fishbowl of their own making. A huge portion of the issues officers must grapple with are a direct result of that tension.
Social Media-Driven Tension in Schools
According to the latest report form the Pew Research Center, nearly every teen in America has a smartphone. Nearly half of these students report that they are online “almost constantly.”
Officers report that, especially in schools, social media–with it’s speed and capacity to amplify a small beef or momentary lapse of judgement into a worldwide phenomenon–is almost invariably the source of every serious issue that comes in front of them. Half of all SROs report regularly monitoring the social media use of the students in the schools they serve, and many list “the influence of technology, including social media” among their top challenges.
“It’s all electronic here,” FAAC’s MILO Training Systems General Manager Robert McCue says. “That’s what officers tell us every time we ask about what they worry about when they are working in schools. Every mental health crisis, every fight, every incident–it almost always can be traced back to a phone, a social media rumor, a revealing picture.”
Modern Policing in the High School Fishbowl
For school resource and other officers, this is an even more volatile version of the fishbowl they now contend with on the street: According to a 2018 report prepared by Education Week, only about 30 percent of all school resource officers (SROs) wear body cameras. Meanwhile, nearly every teen in America has a smartphone with a video camera. If there is an incident, it’s almost certain that it will be recorded from every angle and perspective–except for the officers.
“Again, this is part of what we’re addressing with the MILO simulation solutions,” explains Rob McCue. “Not only is this about providing a system that triggers a genuine emotional response, but also a rehearsal system, so officers can practice all of those communication and deescalation skills while under real stress. It’s also creating a system where the officer can stand back, after the fact, dispassionately, and really see how they’re gonna look on camera, and how all of this is going to seem when it’s all over Facebook and YouTube. And making sure it looks professional, and reflects on the reality of what you’re trying to accomplish.”