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Police Ambassadors: Student-Police Interactions in School and Legal Socialization

NCJ Number
Law & Society Review Volume: 54 Issue: 2 Dated: 2020 Pages: 391-422
Date Published
32 pages

This study analyzed data from interviews with school police officers and discussions of focus groups of school staff, parents, and students that indicate how school police officers interact with youth in schools. 


The recent influx of police officers into U.S. public schools has reshaped the context and frequency of children's interactions with police. Yet we know little about how the presence of these officers in schools impacts the legal socialization of students, and whether youth of color might be affected or socialized in different ways than White youth. In the current study, school police officers discussed their desire to build relationships with students that instill trust in police among students. Officers discussed their efforts to teach students that police should be trusted and relied on, and that negative views of policing and involvement with the justice system are the result of a negative news media and individual citizens' criminality, respectively. Importantly, officers discussed how they give high priority to imparting these lessons to youth of color and others who may have negative views of police. This article considers how such police outreach efforts, which the authors call acting as police ambassadors, might have different impacts on youth of color compared to White youth, given existing racial disparities in interactions with police. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020