How districts have adjusted since pulling SROs from schools | #schoolsaftey

ROBBINSDALE, Minn. — Several police departments in Minnesota are keeping officers out of schools until new legislation around school resource officers gets clarified.

At Cooper High School in Robbinsdale, Principal Shaunece Smith says New Hope Police Department pulling its two officers has been a huge change for the school’s culture.

“Our students love having our SROs here,” Smith said. “They have built relationships with our students.”

She says what’s lost is students’ abilities to better relate with cops outside of school.

“When they need to interact with a police officer, they know that could be a normal interaction that doesn’t have to be associated with any past traumas they may have had,” Smith said.

RELATED:  How are we going to keep kids safe at schools?

Of course, SROs are there for safety reasons as well. Smith says without them, school staff try their best not to call 911.

A WCCO analysis of police call records shows that officers have responded to Cooper 78 times this school year, mostly for uneventful spot checks, but there have been some fights, as well as a student with a knife.

“When we do need them, it takes them time to get here,” Smith said. “That’s been the huge concern.”

New Hope keeps patrols nearby when it can, which is a strategy Maple Grove police are also using as an alternative to being inside Maple Grove High School.

MORE: What is the exact language of the new law concerning school resource officer conduct?

Commander Jon Wetternach with Maple Grove Police Department said in a statement Thursday, “The patrol response method has not been as effective as having a dedicated SRO in the building.  We are really missing out on the relationship aspect which oftentimes lessens the level [of] involvement needed from the police.  When available, officers who are specially trained to work in a school environment are still responding to calls for service at the schools.

Records show officers have responded to Maple Grove High School 82 times this school year, including a few times for fights and assaults.

Anoka, Coon Rapids and White Bear Lake High Schools have also lost their SROs.

Call records show police have responded to those campuses 76, 70, and 32 times, respectively, this school year.

A spokesperson for Osseo Area Schools, which Maple Grove High School is a part of, said in a statement: 

The safety and well-being of our students and staff remains our highest priority. Our schools have a strong safety plan, which includes our SRO program. Each officer has spent time cultivating positive relationships within our school communities. They’re a part of our Osseo Area Schools family and are very missed.

Our safety plan also includes a dedicated Safety and Emergency Management Team, highly skilled school staff, controlled entries, safety drills, digital cameras, tip lines, and more.

We’ll continue to partner with our community police organizations in the weeks and months ahead. School safety and security are community endeavors – it takes all of us working together to do this.

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