Rochester Public Schools reevaluating roles of School Resource Officers

In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, parents are questioning the role of police in schools.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 6:32 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, parents are questioning the role of police in schools.

In Rochester, the school board is reevaluating the responsibilities of its School Resource Officers, otherwise known as SROs.

Since the early 1990′s, RPS and Rochester Police have worked closely together with its SRO program.

“We have a very important collaborative relationship with Rochester Police Department which is embodied by the presence of School Resource Officers in our schools,” Superintendent Kent Pekel said.

Pekel says the current contract between RPS and RPD for its five SROs is set to expire June 30, and now the school board is reevaluating the officers’ roles.

“We have wanted to reach across the very different cultures and processes of education and policing,” Pekel said.

SROs have been meeting regularly with school administrators and equity specialists to help promote school safety.

“It’s really helped the team environment inside the school between staff members and police officers particularity the equity specialists that are dealing with a lot of same and similar problems,” RPD Captain Jeff Stilwell, who oversees the SRO program, said.

Over the summer, the officers are participating in equity training along with school staff.

“It’s just about getting to know each other, getting to know who to refer people to that need services that might not be police related, and working through problems together,” Captain Stilwell said.

Captain Stillwell says re-evaluating the roles and responsibilities of SROs is important to not only the officers but the school system and community.

“The principal and SRO usually know those roles, sometimes other staff or maybe a responding police officer that’s just working the street that day don’t understand those roles, so we want to make sure that’s clear,” he said.

The board doesn’t plan to cut any of the existing officers, and while they want to eventually add another officer to middle schools, creating a set of expectations for officers is the board and RPD’s top priority.

“We want to make sure that we get all this work that we’re currently doing about the roles and responsibilities before we even have that conversation. We’re working for a better program but we’re pretty proud of where we’re at right now,” Captain Stilwell said.

The next school board meeting is on June 21. That’s when the board will consider specific changes to the SRO program.

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