KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Angela Poe Russell: Is it time to put police back in Seattle schools?

Jun 12, 2024, 8:12 AM | Updated: 10:34 am

police seattle schools...

Police officer Steve Brown stands in the hallway during passing periods. (Photo: Joshua Polson, The Associated Press)

(Photo: Joshua Polson, The Associated Press)

In the days since 17-year-old Amarr Murphy-Paine lost his life at school while trying to be a peacemaker, people have expressed frustration and exasperation. Not only in losing a young life, but feeling like we’re losing in our efforts to keep students safe.

Last week, I looked into the hurt and worn down eyes of one senior from Garfield High School who expressed disappointment over losing his school’s old resource officer and wondered what difference his presence might have made.

The truth is we can’t know for sure, but it’s something some in the community are contemplating. It can be a controversial topic. You see, in 2020, after the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed, the Seattle School District removed all resource officers from its schools.

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And they weren’t the only ones, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, between May 2020 and June 2022, more than 50 school districts across the country eliminated school officer programs. In all fairness, they were a new phenomenon. Before 1975, police in schools were a rare occurrence.

So, for some, the idea of bringing them back is out of the question. But they can’t afford to take anything off the table, especially when something clearly isn’t working. Some fear welcoming police into specific neighborhoods and schools would create a militarized environment.

Derrick Dotson, author of the children’s Book “The Police and Me,” is admittedly leery of police in schools, but said they can be effective with the right plan.

The history of these programs, issues like inappropriate relationships, failure to keep track of firearms, excessive force; but these programs can be done in a way where students can benefit. Crime prevention education, education about laws, community engagement such as bringing student’s families and teachers together for positive interactions with law enforcement,” Dtoson said. “But for this to be done right, it has to be the right candidate to be an SRO. It’s not as important to know the officers enjoy being around students as it is making sure that students can feel safe and can learn from being around the officers.”

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To be clear, police can’t be the only tool, but they can be part of the solution.

Officers who show up only as part of temporary emphasis patrol are a Band-Aid and create a transactional relationship, not one built on community. Officers who care and connect – knowing the neighbors, the students, the parents, the troublemakers and the peacemakers — are an asset and are ones we can’t afford to keep on the sidelines.

Angela Poe Russell fills in as a host on KIRO Newsradio and has been around Seattle media in different capacities for a number of years.

KIRO Newsradio Opinion

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Angela Poe Russell: Is it time to put police back in Seattle schools?