Committee recommends school resource officers return to Phoenix high schools
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Two years after the Phoenix Union High School District got rid of school resource officers, their safety committee has now recommended bringing them back. It’s been a controversial topic since the decision was made to remove them, but now the school board will vote on implementing them once again.
The thing is, the Phoenix Police Department would have to agree to the changes too. The PXU safety committee has been taking feedback from students, parents, and staff for months about how to move forward with school safety and their relationship with the police department.
When they got rid of SROs, community relations with the police were tense. Now, the committee chair said there’s more to consider. They held a meeting this week on what bringing back school resource officers would look like for the Phoenix district that did away with them in 2020. “A majority of the committee voted to request SROs, or recommended SRO’s, on each campus,” said Katie Gipson-McLean, the PXU safety committee chair.
She said during a 5-hour meeting this week, the committee came up with a list of recommendations to bring back SROs but with stipulations that include things like officer hiring, accountability, and specific training. But it’s not just up to them. “Phoenix Police is also going to have give and take when it comes to the actual agreement, and that’s a whole other process they would have to go through,” said Gipson-McLean.
There’s a chance Phoenix Police could reject all the recommendations. Gipson-McLean said they want officers at all 23 campuses, but the cost may be unrealistic, so the school board would have to decide which campuses get them if they can’t afford this for all.
The financial impact was one reason she said the district got rid of SROs in 2020, freeing up more than a million dollars. But she said at the time, relations with law enforcement were also strained, and that was taken into account. “I believe public perception was definitely a factor,” said Gipson-McLean. “There was definitely unrest and also we had our own protests here. Things are going to change, right? And this is a fluid thing and I would hate to see this stay static or stagnate because it is something that has to change with what’s going on in the world around us.”
She said as scary as times can feel now with the fentanyl crisis, mass shootings, and gun violence, they based their recommendations on safety data and statistics, and community input, trying to be proactive instead of reactive. “I think fear drives that perception of safety, and sometimes, you know, I understand as a parent statistics and data aren’t going to help when you’re thinking it could be my kid,” Gipson-McLean said.
Arizona’s Family reached out to Phoenix Police to ask them about these recommendations, and they said they’d get back to us next week.
The committee will present all its recommendations to the school board on April 13. The board is expected to hold a vote sometime before the end of June.
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