Police, PPS end school resource officers program
The Portland Police Bureau and Portland Public Schools have ended their school resource officers program.
Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced on his Twitter account on Thursday morning, June 4, that he is discontinuing the regular presence of specially trained Portland police officers.
School resource officers are sworn members of the police force whose "beats" are school campuses.
"The time is now. With new proposed investments in direct student supports (social workers, counselors, culturally specific partnerships and more), I am discontinuing the regular presence of school resource officers . We need to re-examine our relationship with the PPB," Guerrero wrote.
Mayor Ted Wheeler's office said that he agrees with the decision.
Wheeler said he made the same decision Wednesday evening and told the bureau's officers Thursday morning. Wheeler said he will redirect $1 million of the program's $1.6 million budget to community programs.
The district's schools are not in session because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is unknown whether they will reopen in the fall.
Guerrero made his announcement as protests against police brutality are sweeping the nation, sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
The Portland Police Bureau had assigned the specially trained SROs to the district's schools for years. The district and bureau had been negotiating over whether the district should foot some or all of the cost of the officers.
Critics have said minority students are disproportionately arrested by SROs, creating a pathway into the criminal justice system from which many never recover.
Many suburban school districts and police departments throughout the metro area operate similar programs. Portland officers also are assigned to schools in the David Douglas and Parkrose school districts. David Douglas School Board Chair Andrea Valderrama said she will introduce a resolution this week to terminate negotiations with Portland police over continuing with the program.
The resolution urges the Parkrose School District, the Reynolds School District, and the Centennial School District to do the same.
The Reynolds School District, which experienced a school shooting in 2014, said Thursday it is continuing with its SRO program, however. It involves the Gresham Police Department and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
"The Reynolds School District has developed strong, supportive relationships with the Gresham Police Department and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Department, who we partner with to provide school resource officers in our schools. Our SROs work side-by-side with administrators, teachers and support staff to provide services and have developed important interpersonal relationships with many of our students and families.
"The district is looking to initiate collaborative and constructive conversations with these support agencies and the SRO staff to learn how we can better serve students together as we reopen in the fall for the 2020-21 school year," said Superintendent Danna Diaz.
In 2014, just days before the school year ended, 15-year-old Jared Padgett shot and killed 14-year-old classmate Emillio Hoffman and wounded PE teacher Todd Rispler. The school's two resource officers ran to the area where the shooting occurred and a report credited them with saving lives as Padgett, cornered by the officers, took his own life.
"This is not a discussion in our district," said Paul Coakley superintendent of the Centennial School District.
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced on Wednesday, June 3, that she will ask the City Council to terminate the SRO program along with other specialty units such as the Transit Police and Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was known as the Gang Enforcement Team before its responsibility were expanded to include all shootings several years ago.
Hardesty and Wheeler had agreed to review the use of the teams in coming months when the council approved the next year's budget that takes effect July 1.
Wheeler said that although he agreed the SRO program should be ended, he has not yet decided on the other two.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on school resource officers at here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.