Over the last few years, the idea of defunding the police was tied to the idea that we would have better outcomes with depleted law enforcement resources. While I am continually in support of more training, continued discussions when an incident happens and departments evolving for the better with education — I was never on the defund any local law enforcement messaging.
In all the calls for defunding police, an area that likely got caught up unfairly in the discussions was school resource officers. In 2020, local news reports called for removing SROs in light of a national anger at law enforcement in some Denver metro schools.
Here we are years later and regular crime at a Denver metro high school has gotten so bad that even students at East High School staged a protest to ask for better.
As discussions continued, several have now admitted that the idea of SROs doing more harm than good was a bit misguided.
Before becoming a parent, I worked with SROs in Arizona on a regular basis. I loved working with these officers. I loved seeing them work with students. They truly cared about a student having a bad day. They understand the need to communicate and spend extra time with students who are obviously going through a rough time.
For other students who may have taken first in a track meet or won the spelling bee — these SROs are some of the biggest cheerleaders in the school.
I loved how receptive these students are to the SROs. They serve as security, counselor, mentor and friend. They can spot a student who may be posing a threat to the school based on changed behavior and habits.
Now, I am a parent. As a parent, knowing what I know from my days as a journalist doing a “ride-along” with police, I would never push to take SROs out of schools.
These men and women are some of the best members of our communities. They likely have more knowledge of what is happening with students in our schools because they are trained to do so. I do not think I have ever met an SRO who does not like their job. They are good at their jobs because they love their jobs.
When I see an SRO at a local school, I never think of unneeded authority. I automatically think my kids are likely getting great mentorship from an adult who is trained to protect them and advocate for them.
I believe all of our local school districts should look to bring in more SROs, and frankly, given the state of mental health with our children, especially here in Colorado, another set of eyes, an extra advocate for our children can only be a positive thing.
I hate that negative publicity has hurt these people who are great additions to our education system and I hope, given some recent discussions, they get back on track and in full force in schools.
Just to give a shout out to other community aspects of our local law enforcement — In Douglas County I have taken a class in how to survive in case of a mass shooting. Brian McKnight, prevention specialist/community resources, taught me to sit a certain way in a building. I look around for exits, I look for weapons — I look at how I will survive. These programs are unfortunately welcome and needed.
I did a ride-along with the Community Response Team in Douglas County. In watching Deputy Zach Zepeski in one day – I was amazed at the difference he and his team makes in the daily lives of our citizens.
Law enforcement is not just about writing tickets and drawing a gun. From citizen academies, training sessions and community support — I say don’t be so quick to put them down, and instead experience and be a part of the good they offer.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.