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Council OKs Doubling School Resource Officers

November 28, 2018

School resource officer Staci Stallings keeps an eye on activity in the lunch room at Silver Creek High School on Monday.

Longmont City Council on Tuesday night approved an agreement that will eventually double the number of police officers assigned to St. Vrain Valley School District middle and high schools in the city.

Increasing the school resource officers from six to 12 was approved in a unanimous 6-0 vote, with Councilman Aren Rodriguez absent.

During a public-comment period before the votes, two people expressed concerns that school resource officers might disproportionately focus negative attention and disciplinary actions on minority and disabled students.

Pratt Street resident Billie Abbitt said that as a parent of a school-age child, he supports the school district’s and Longmont Public Safety Department’s goals of working for school safety.

Abbitt cited national studies, though, that he said some school resource programs elsewhere are prone to “criminalizing” certain groups of students.

Another parent, Sugar Mill Avenue resident Judy Huston, said students often believe drawing the attention of school resource officers can result in suspensions, expulsions or arrests — examples, she said, of unintended consequences and “children being traumatized for regular kid behavior.”

Praising Longmont police and the district’s resource officers program was Wildrose Place resident Jake Marsing, who told council members that based on his experience with the officers when he was a student, “I can tell you they make a positive impact.”

Marsing said the program is valuable “and should be expanded as Longmont expands.”

He suggested that if there are concerns about racial discrimination against some students, the city and school district could address those in the hiring and training of resource officers — something Public Safety Chief Mike Butler told the council is already the case.

Every employee in the Public Safety Department participates in anti-bias and cultural sensitivity training, Butler said. The selection of police officers to serve as school resource officers includes input and interviews by the school district, current resource officers and even students, he said.

“We do believe it’s highly effective in our schools,” Butler said of the resource officer program.

He said officers have been able to prevent crimes and that the resource officers have “played a critical role” in reducing the numbers of gang members in Longmont.

Councilwoman Joan Peck suggested the Public Safety Department and St. Vrain Valley School District make periodic reports, perhaps quarterly, to council about the program.

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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