Changing Course: The debate over school resource officers

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DENVER (KDVR) – School resource officers are being phased out in Denver Public Schools, while other districts around the state say they’re an important part of the schools.

Over the summer, the DPS Board voted unanimously to remove 18 school resource officers at campuses around the city.

The DPS decision came after protests demanding changes to the policing system following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“George Floyd’s death, and every tragic death of Black people at the hands of law enforcement, have brought to light how we as a district can respond and do more for our students of color. Ever since the issue of removing school resource officers was first raised, I emphasized how critical it is to hear from many different voices in the community,” Superintendent Susana Cordova said at the time.

But some non-profit youth programs in the city said having resource officers can actually be beneficial for students.

“I think the criticism of police excessive force and targeting of a particular community is real,” Ned Breslin, CEO of Tennyson Center for Children, said. “At the beginning the kids were like ‘I don’t like this police officer on campus’ and over time because they built a relationship, because we built a relationship with the police force we saw us go from 45-50 police contacts a month to under three.”

Breslin said the school, along with Denver Police Department’s District 1, has taken a new approach to the student resource officer program.

“District one has been an amazing partner with Tennyson (Center) because they have owned that narrative. They said ‘I don’t want to be a part of that story anymore, we’re going to change it in the real lives at the Tennyson Center’ and I’ve seen that change,” he told FOX31.

Denver Police will still respond to Denver schools when needed. Denver Public Schools also has a department of public safety with 165 officers who patrol the district.

Jefferson County has 40 school resource officers. Douglas County School District says its resource officers are much more than an officer in a school, they connect with students on a personal level.

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