DENVER (KDVR) — How to protect students and teachers in the classroom after Wednesday’s East High shooting was brought into question, and whether school resource officers would make a difference.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the resource officers should be back in schools. During a press conference after the shooting, he said “it’s clear now that we need to do more in with our police officers inside the buildings in these types of situations.”
Hancock said there will be two armed officers at the school for the rest of the year.
SROs were removed back in 2020 after a unanimous vote by the school board. Part of the decision was the belief that the close proximity of law enforcement to students on school campuses contributes to a school-to-prison pipeline.
Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said he’s advocating for school resource officers to return as well and is ready to provide those officers for the remainder of the year.
The school board told us there are three unarmed security officers employed at the school, but only two were present during the shooting.
This shooting happened as the suspect, Austin Lyle, was being searched by the two deans as a part of a safety plan.
Stacey Collis, a retired SRO, said the training would have made an SRO ready for a situation like Wednesday’s.
“They’re trained in how to do pat downs and check as kids come in, where a lot of administrators don’t have that training. And so they’re just put on the front lines and say ‘you now need to deal with this’ and they don’t have the tools to deal with that,” Collis said.
In addition, he said they bring a different perspective and can form relationships with students, so the officers are trusted more.
“There’s a difference between a police officer and an SRO in schools and an SRO, comes at it from a different point of view and really wants to work with kids and make kids successful and to make it an open and inviting environment but people have forgotten that,” Collis said.
FOX31 reached out to the board of education for comment, which sent a statement saying in part, “the Board of Education supports the decision of superintendent Marrero to work in partnership with local law enforcement to create safer learning spaces across Denver public schools for the remainder of this school year.”
We also reached out to three of the members who voted to remove SROs back in 2020, Auon’tai M. Anderson, Scott Baldermann and Carrie Olson. None could be reached for comment.