The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is pushing a misguided proposal to remove school resource officers.
The Associated Press reported the ACLU has circulated a letter to nine school administrators so far, mostly in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. The ACLU said money spent on school resource officers should instead go toward the social-emotional needs of children, through measures such as hiring more social workers and counselors.
The ACLU cites research that shows strict disciplinary practices in schools often target black males and set those children up for negative interactions with law enforcement and incarceration later on.
That hasn’t been our experience here in Jefferson City, nor do we believe it to be the case in most cities.
Here in Jefferson City, school resource officers essentially perform community policing, a strategy we’ve advocated for years and one that is being pushed with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Community policing involves working closely with the community and building ties. It’s police officers doing more than enforcing the law.
Good school resource officers, like good community police officers, show their human side and engage in positive interactions.
It takes an officer with the right temperament to work in the schools, and we’ve been fortunate to have many good SROs here.
Yes, SROs are there to enforce the law and keep students and faculty safe during incidents ranging from fights to drugs to active shooter situations.
But they’re also there to get to know students. They help, encourage and mentor students. They’re sometimes able to head off problems before they become law enforcement issues.
Students are not just safer thanks to our SROs, but their lives are enriched. For the students’ sake, we hope school districts don’t take the ACLU’s proposal seriously.