Police-schools liaison and young people's image of the police: an intervention evaluation.
Hopkins N., Hewstone M., Hantzi A.
This paper evaluates the impact of Police-Schools Liaison on young people's views and attitudes about the police and offending. It reports the first, large-scale, independent evaluation of this social intervention. The evaluation (based on 1245 secondary-school pupils) compares views of the police in schools with (target) and without (control) a full-time Schools Liaison Officer (SLO). Although attitudes to the police are marginally positive, they become less so over one year. There is no evidence that Schools Liaison input into the target schools slows or halts this decline, or that it affects perceptions of the seriousness of offences, and the likelihood of identification associated with crime. This weak impact is, at least in part, attributable to the low reported rates of direct contact, and the judged atypicality of the SLO. Target-school pupils judged their SLO positively, but as distinct from the 'police in general'. Their view of the SLO had a direct impact on their liking of the police in general, but there was no effect for contact. We conclude that Police-Schools Liaison has only limited positive effects, as predicted from critiques of the traditional 'contact hypothesis'.