Former school resource officer says push to remove position in DPS could present problems

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Public Schools Board of Education will vote Thursday on a resolution aimed at removing school resource officers from the district and ending its contract with the Denver Police Department.

The resolution calls on the board and superintendent to reduce the number of school resource officers in district schools by 25 percent by the end of 2020 and to terminate DPS’ contract with DPD for services of school resource officers by the end of next school year.

The resolution also asks that funding for school resource officers be redirected to things like mental health services, psychologists and restorative justice practitioners. 

“I would love to see that, but the school resource officer is an integral part of the community,” said Stacey Collis, retired SRO and former president of the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers.

Collis says school resource officers should not be viewed as patrol officers in schools. He says their duties are entirely different and they receive a different set of training when selected for the role.

“I took training on dealing with students on the autism spectrum, special education training, anything I could to get advancement. Now with the basic training, we talk about diversity, we talk about implicit bias, we talk about disproportionality,” said Collis.

He says school resource officers help build trust between students and law enforcement.

According to the resolution, the school board will meet sometime before the end of summer to discuss the future of law enforcement in district schools and to draft a new memorandum of understanding that clarifies the ongoing, but more limited role that DPD will have in supporting DPS.

Collis worries bringing in patrol officers to respond to serious incidents will not be as effective as having a school resource officer available.

“You’re going to have somebody coming in that is not necessarily trained on how to deal with youth, how to deal with the school environment. And the only option they may see is an arrest or a ticket,” said Collis.

That’s the outcome the resolution is trying to avoid. The goal is to resolve matters in a way that doesn’t lead to legal action. Collis says as a school resource officer, there were certain situations where he resorted to tickets or arrests, but he says he tried to deal with things on the lowest level possible.

“My goal is to try to help them get the help they need,” said Collis.

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