Police in Schools

Should the county hire three additional resource officers?

July 6, 2018

Should Columbia County create three new positions for resource officers (police officers in schools)? The salary would be split between the Columbia County government and the school districts.

The resolution was passed unanimously by the Public Safety Committee (I don’t serve on the committee) and is scheduled for a vote by the full board on July 11.

Every student and school employee deserves a safe learning environment where people are treated fairly. In order to evaluate the proposed resolution we need to determine if more school resource officers are the best way to create that environment.

Shared Costs

The County offers to split the cost of school resource officers with the school districts. Currently, the County has a few resource officers—some are shared between multiple school districts. The Hudson City School District full-time resource officer is provided by the Hudson Police Department and is not attached to the County arrangement. There is also a County funded resource officer who splits time between Hudson and Germantown schools.

The current proposal would add three new resource officers and the New Lebanon, Germantown, and Chatham school districts have agreed to match the costs of these additional officers. This would give every school district one full-time resourse officer. The agreement would go from September 4, 2018 to June 29, 2019.

Roles

Some of the county’s schools are far from a police station, New Lebanon in particular, and having an on-site officer would provide an added level of security. In addition, the program is intended to foster relationships between the County’s youth and law enforcement. Resource officers help facilitate school activities such as D.A.R.E.

Better Solutions

Despite the massive investments and increase in the everyday presence of police officers in schools, the Congressional Research Service found, 'the body of research on the effectiveness of SRO [school resource officer] programs is noticeably limited, and the research that is available draws conflicting conclusions about whether SRO programs are effective at reducing school violence. In addition, the body of research on the effectiveness of SROs does not address whether their presence in schools has deterred mass shootings.' The National School Survey on Crime and Safety data shows that having an SRO at a school on at least a weekly basis increases the number of students who will be involved in the justice system. Arrest rates for disorderly conduct and low-level assault substantially increase when police are assigned to schools. There is no evidence or research that suggests police in schools are the best way to improve school safety.

Alliance for Quality Education

I’m not sure if resource officers are the best way to address our most pressing needs. Rather than law enforcement, conflict resolution training might have a larger impact on safety. Trained therapists, counselors, and social workers may be better equipped at providing on-site services and facilitating school programs.

Given the challenges our school districts suffer with affordable housing and homelessness, funds may be better diverted to creating a housing coordinator. According to the County’s 2017 housing study, “Trauma to students facing homelessness and other housing issues has required the diverted attention of many school teachers, coaches, and administrators, and has created the need for additional school counselors in several districts throughout the county. Widespread housing issues for students have directly resulted in the diversion of school staff time and attention.” Yet the County has yet to commit to funding a position to address this crisis.

What do you think about adding three new resource officers? Let me know.