Report | March 1, 2016

Formalizing School-Police Partnerships

8 key elements on how to devise an effective memoranda of understanding (MOU) between police and schools

While police officers become more involved in the daily routines of local schools, many questions arise when student misconduct becomes the responsibility of law enforcement rather than school staff, as well as the roles officers play on campus. When these roles are unaddressed, issues emerge, such as unnecessary criminalization of students, and privacy concerns, among others.

Increasingly, schools and police enter into written agreements, often referred to as a memorandum of understanding (MOU), to formalize their partnerships, clarify expectations, and address concerns before they develop. This should be a collaborative, data-driven process that responds to local needs and includes input from a variety of community stakeholders, school staff, students, parents, and law enforcement.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to MOUs. Because the needs and cultures of school districts vary, the elements of an effective MOU will also vary. For example, a school district dealing with issues of gangs and guns will have different needs than a district dealing with truant and disruptive students.

This brief reviews the eight key elements of MOUs identified by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and The Council of State Governments in their collaborative report, The School Discipline Consensus Report, published in 2014. The following analysis incorporates relevant examples from four large California school districts—Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, and San Francisco—of which has adopted MOUs or similar agreements with police.


  1. California