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Alexandria city leaders find a way to keep police presence in schools – Alexandria Echo Press | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria city leaders have developed a plan to keep police officers in schools.

They’re taking the action because of a new state law that will not allow School Resource Officers to restrain a student unless it is necessary to prevent bodily harm or death to the student or others.

Under the new law, for example, SROs wouldn’t be allowed to use force against a disruptive student who is yelling and throwing around school lunch trays in a cafeteria because this behavior doesn’t involve a risk of bodily harm or force.

Alexandria city leaders and the police department have decided to suspend the SROs program and replace it with a pilot program that will include two officers whose assignments will include being present in the schools and responding to child safety and investigations involving youth in local schools.

Scott Kent

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Bobbie Osterberg

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Marty Schultz

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Tom Jacobson

On Thursday, Aug. 31, Police Chief Scott Kent, Mayor Bobbie Osterberg, City Administrator Marty Schultz and City Attorney Tom Jacobson released the following statement about the SRO program and how they developed this new plan:

“School begins next week, and you may have been following the news about changes in Minnesota law relating to police officers in our schools. These changes apply to school resource officers (SROs) who are contracted with school districts, and they limit the ability of those officers to reasonably perform their duties by restricting when and how they may use certain restraints and holds during safety and security encounters with students.

“There is also much ambiguity in these new laws. These changes directly impact the relationship between Alexandria’s two SROs and District 206, and they have caused us to reassess how we can continue to help provide a safe learning environment for our students. To that end, we have been in touch with Superintendent Rick Sansted and school district staff, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Associations, the League of Minnesota Cities, the
Minnesota Association of City Attorneys, Senators Torrey Westrom and Jordan Rasmusson, and Representatives Mary Franson and Tom Murphy.

“Chief Kent has also spoken with several of his peers across the state. We ALL want the same thing, which is a safe learning environment for our students. Based on these discussions, we have come to the difficult decision to suspend the school resource officer program as it has been known for the past decade.

“Please know that we do not come to this decision lightly. It is based on the interpretations and legal advice we have been given. There have been numerous other police and sheriff’s departments in the state that have already stopped their SRO programs for the upcoming school year.

“However, in the interest of public and school safety, there will still be police in Alexandria’s schools. The Alexandria Police Department will be implementing a pilot program that will include two officers whose assignments will include being present in our schools and responding to child safety and investigations involving youth in our schools.

“While these officers will be present in our schools, they will no longer have a set schedule or be assigned to certain schools. We have already had requests from building principals for officers to be on their campuses and in the buildings for the first couple days of school. The community will continue to see uniformed police officers in drop off zones, parking lots, inside school buildings, and at extracurricular events throughout the school year.

“You may be wondering how this plan differs from the SRO program we have had in the past. In addition to the structural changes noted above, this pilot program will no longer be managed or paid for under a contract between the City of Alexandria and School District 206. It will be temporarily funded out of the city’s current police department budget without reimbursement from the school district.

“Our passion is to protect our students, staff, and police officers. We feel that with the changes to the law, this model best protects everyone and will likely have little impact on our response time or safety to students. We stand ready to work with our area legislators and Gov. Walz’s administration to find a solution that will allow us to resume the school resource officer partnership with District 206 that we believe has provided a great benefit to the community.”

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.

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