Denver could soon restore School Resource Officers, three years after their removal in an experiment that has led to increased violence in the district.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, Denver Public Schools had voted unanimously to remove SROs from schools in June 2020, writes the Denver Post. But now board President Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytán called the return of cops in schools “inevitable,” according to the Post.
The board, as it turns out, may have decided police are needed to prevent crimes.
“The landscape of policing is shifting from the conversations that the Denver community was having in 2020,” Gaytán explains.
In March, DPS voted to restore SROs temporarily to schools, after a series of shootings at Denver East High School put the spotlight on the growing problem of violence in the system’s schools.
Critics, such as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, say the decision to remove police from schools was taken in haste.
“Removing them was a mistake, and we must move swiftly to correct it. We’re ready to work with DPS, and we all have to step up as a community and be part of the solution,” Hancock said in a statement, according to KDVR local 31 News.
The unanimous vote to restore SROs came only after DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero ordered their return in violation of board policy and dared the board to hold him accountable for it.
“I can no longer stand on the sidelines,” Marrero wrote in his letter to the board telling members he would unilaterally restore police officers in schools, according to the Colorado Sun. “I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.”
His actions coincided with pressure from outside groups calling for the ouster of board members.
One such group is Resign DPS Board, which has already gathered 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the board to resign. The Post said the group is neither for nor against SROs in schools, but is united behind the belief the DPS board is not qualified to make safety decisions on behalf of the district’s children.
“We started feeling very, very frustrated at what we perceive to be a really dysfunctional board that should not be in charge of making life-or-death decisions with kids’ safety,” Heather Lamm, who heads the group, told the Post.
Yet, board member Auon’tai Anderson still maintains the emphasis on police in schools is wrong and there should be a greater emphasis on mental health care.
“The board cares,” Anderson said, according to the Greeley Tribune. “I believe my colleagues and I care about people, but I do believe that we are misguided in this conversation that we are having.”
Anderson has recently dropped his school board reelection bid in favor of a run for a vacant state House seat.
DPS is considering several plans, but as of yet, has made no formal decision on the permanent restoration of SROs.