Cops in the Classroom: Bainbridge Could get ‘SRO’

Josh Farley writes:


It’s no secret that demands on law enforcement officers continue to change in this day and age, and one of the more specialized roles is the School Resource Officer, or SRO for short.

We’ve written much about the role of an SRO this year, and the overall impact of police in schools.

Most school districts have an SRO: The Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bremerton police departments each contract with their respective school districts, as does the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office for the North and South Kitsap school districts.

Meanwhile, the Bainbridge and Central Kitsap School Districts continue to go it with security guards. Although according to the Bainbridge Notebook blog, the island could indeed get its own school resource officer soon.

Althea Paulson, author of the Bainbridge Notebook, found the approximately $103,000 budget item tucked into the city of Bainbridge Island’s draft budget.

Generally, school districts fund a portion of the SRO’s salary — in this proposed case about a third — while an officer’s employer (the city in this case) picks up the rest.

Interestingly, Paulson notes, the school district commissioned a security review following a school year that included suspected threats of gun violence, bomb threats that cancelled finals, and charges against girls who poisoned their teacher.

But it’s not just safety that an officer is needed for. More from Paulson:

Outgoing school board member Bruce Weiland explained to me that security isn’t the main reason the district wants a campus police officer. Rather, the Board wants someone who can develop relationships with students, so teens have a more positive impression of law enforcement. And if there is an emergency on campus, the SRO will be an on-site responder who is familiar with students and the campus layout.

Whether the city ultimately approves spending the $103,000 — $57,000 of which is acutal salary for the officer — is yet to be seen.

10 thoughts on “Cops in the Classroom: Bainbridge Could get ‘SRO’

  1. What a great opportunity for schools to help install a lifelong trust in law enforcement to their students.
    A good fit all the way around…win win.
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. Sharon, I tend to agree with you. However, the author of the blog that Josh references to appears to have biases against the police. She posted a rather negative follow-up that does not appear to be balanced. She makes the impression that she is doing research and mentions drug/alcohol use and statistics compiled by the school district.

    The problem is that the school district does not compile statistics on crimes committed by it’s students while off-campus. In addition, simply having a list of reports taken by the police at the High School also does not cover the crimes committed by it’s students while off-campus. Would it surprise you to learn that juveniles (yes, that is plural)on the island have been arrested for selling drugs (read this factoid in the Sun) and various other crimes that adults also commit? Did the blogster also do any research to see if there are any registered sex offenders around the school or even juvenile offenders that attend the school?

    It upsets me when folks cherry pick the facts and twist statistics to suit their own needs. The blog posting seems to only incite the anti-law enforcement and conspiracy crowd.

  3. Hunter, it wouldn’t surprise me that drugs are sold everywhere….what surprises me is that the kids, or adults caught selling aren’t given a significant sentence.
    Schools note crimes kids commit on school grounds. The police have to keep tabs and update the schools..

    Having an officer in the schools is a beginning to instilling a trust of law enforcement…but it may take a few years to really notice a pay back.

    It is too bad that BI officers aren’t subsidized to live on the island and leave their patrol car outside for all to view.
    The point is that having officers visible as neighbors establishes another trust and usually a lessening of crime in the area.
    Once trust is established, the officer will probably become aware of certain crimes planned and is able to stop them.

    I think selling drugs in Singapore earns a death sentence.
    Singapore being a very clean, efficient city free of gum chewers. Laws are strictly enforced.
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Hunter.

    I made a public records request to the BIPD and the school district for all of their records and supporting documentation on the SRO. I posted everything I got (with the exception of a couple of items from the police policy that seemed extraneous to the subject).

    From your comments on my site and here, it seems you are defensive when questions are asked about any aspect of policing. If there are good reasons for an SRO, a few questions will only help the case for one.

    As to your comment about off-campus crime, the subject was an on-campus officer. So how is an SRO going to be a solution to things that happen off-campus? If there is data showing it helps, I’m all ears. That’s the reason for my posts in the first place.

    But for now, the school district and the police simply haven’t made the case for a $100,000 yearly expenditure.

  5. Althea…how can a case be made until such a thing has been put in practice and refined?
    The first heart transplant failed. Thanks to a few stubborn medical types and transplant volunteers, successful heart, lung and other organ transplants are now done routinely and, for the most part, successfully done.
    It doesn’t take much for vandalism and drug sales/abuse to exceed $100, 000. damage a year…not to speak of destroyed lives through drug abuse.
    In my opinion,
    Sharon O’Hara

  6. Sharon makes a good point here. I also think that the questioning & apprehensive nature of Ms. Paulson’s blog may be based partially on some sort of unsubstantiated fears. I think that part of having a SRO at a high school very much has everything to do with crimes committed off-campus. Perhaps if we got the dialog and relationship going between the youth and the police at school, the kids that get arrested off-campus would never commit the crimes in the first place. It makes absolutely no sense to me to be reactive and wait until a kid sells & uses drugs, steals, overdoses, commits a sex crime or gets into a car and ends up dead, before we do anything. Doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and try and address these issues before the police call you in the middle of the night to tell you your son or daughter has been arrested, or worse? Having an officer that the kids trust and know to talk to would (I think) lend itself to open and on-going communication. I would imagine that part of that communication would result in the SRO learning about who is doing what and where. Thus enabling a proactive intervention BEFORE the student gets in trouble or injured.

    Something must be done, as the past practice at the high school is not yielding acceptable results. One need only research news articles online to see what is happening both at school at off-campus with our students over the last several years: a teacher arrested & pled guilty for child pornography, domestic assaults, felony assault that resulted in an air-lift, teens arrested for selling drugs (marijuana, heroin and oxycontin), bomb threats, the “lip gloss” poisoning, alcohol overdoses, suicides, fatal car accidents, and more. I fully believe that had there been a SRO at the school, the sexual exposure to and felony harassment of a special needs student this last spring would have been curtailed much sooner than it was. These incidents and circumstances clearly make the case for taking action and I believe that a SRO is a part of that solution.

    So I ask you Althea, at what dollar amount do you think our children and the above issues are worth taking action? I think it is time to try something more proactive than what has historically been done at the high school. I do think we would find surprising positive results from such a program that involves the school staff, students, parents and the police. Guess what? If after a reasonable time the SRO hasn’t made any impact, get rid of it! Nothing says that it is a permanent fixture at the school. I for one do not think we can afford to continue down the same path.

  7. Whoa Hunter. You’ve listed crimes that go back 5 years, many of which don’t involve high school suspects. How is an SRO going to help “domestic assaults”, which, by definition, go on at home? The lip gloss poisoning was at Sakai, not BHS. The “fatal accident” (I guess you’re referring to the Tolo Road accident) was with a middle school driver and happened in the summer in the middle of the night. How is that relevant to a high school SRO? Alcohol overdoses on campus? I don’t think so, though I’ll grant you there have been plenty at homes and in parks and cars–places where an SRO isn’t going to be. Suicide is a tragic reality, but how is it a law enforcement issue? Why does the high school have no mental health professionals on staff, and only a part time drug and alcohol counselor? Why do we need cops before we have counselors? Before we spend money we don’t have in the budget, we need more than a laundry list of frightening incidents that may or may not be addressed with an SRO.

    You’ll get no disagreement from me that island teens–like people everywhere–have an abundance of problems. For me, law enforcement isn’t the first priority, when we’re still not providing support and resources for struggling kids and their families.

  8. Domestic assault does not just occur in the home, it refers to a domestic relationship. For example boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, room mates, people with a child in common, or anyone with whom one has had a sexual relation. I don’t suppose any of these type relationships occur within the walls of BHS, funny because they sure did when I went there. And I’d imagine the same type of disputes that go on in the home go on within the school walls as well. And it isn’t the location that earns the title “domestic assault” it is the relationship between the parties involved.

    Regarding the Tolo Road crash, no the student/driver/suspect, was not a current BHS student. She also was not a middle school student. The incident happened in the month of August when she was not in school at all. I believe if you check the facts you would see that she was a registered 9th grade student at BHS.

    What I do have first hand experience of is the countless hours spent on a daily basis responding to calls and taking reports of incidents at the high school as a former BIPD officer (1998-2006). Additionally I was a student at BHS seated in the front row when a teacher was grabbed and a knife was held to her throat during a school assembly. It can, it does, and it will continue to happen in all schools not just BHS. Maybe it is time to try a new approach and consider allowing an SRO in the school.

  9. I may be wrong but wasn’t it BHS where the boy was continually sexually harrassed by another student(s)over a long period of time? And counselors were aware of it? I have never looked at law enforcement as my enemy or as big brother looking over my shoulder but as my trusted hero’s who will come to my aid and whose presence gives me an added sense of security. I suppose I learned that from my parents at first and it has been proven to me several times over the years.
    One thing that I don’t like about these types of statistics is that there is no way to determine what ISN’T being reported. drc57 makes a great point with domestic assault and abuse. SROs are trained officers who would be able to spot problems and crimes before they escalate. And for those who may be getting victimized they are a person who can take immidiate action when a crime is committed. Counselors do a great job at counseling but they work in an office and not ‘in the field’. There is no way to know how much crime is prevented by having an SRO at the school but to me $100,000 is a small price to pay when it is your child who is the victim of abuse or bullying or other crime.
    It makes me sick to read some of the posts on the blogs (I assume by adults) who portray officers as being worse than the criminals and have nothing better to do then falsly accuse and set up innocents just because they are bored and the donut shop is closed or whatever. If those adults have such a view then what are they teaching their own kids? Developing a good relationship and trust between youth and law enforcement is a positive thing in this day and age, not to mention respect for each other which seems to be so lacking.

  10. Althea… you offer only objections without solutions. You only know that you are against adding an officer to the school because so many other problems exist out of school. You end up doing nothing.

    “…How is an SRO going to help “domestic assaults”,….The “fatal accident” (I guess you’re referring to the Tolo Road accident) was with a middle school driver and happened in the summer in the middle of the night. How is that relevant to a high school SRO? Alcohol overdoses on campus? I don’t think so, though I’ll grant you there have been plenty at homes and in parks and cars–places where an SRO isn’t going to be….”

    You will never know how influential an SRO can be in the schools, nor do you seem to care.

    I, personally know of instances where high schoolers connected to the SO and deputies (in some manner) have stopped planned illegal activities before they began…the sort of stuff that never reaches a newspaper to be read by folks like you.

    Adding an officer (the right personality officer) to a school will help bridge the huge gap between children and law enforcement…. it will build a relationship leading to trust leading to less crime.

    It won’t help domestic violence at home? Why not? If kids learn to trust law enforcement and have someone to confide in, that is a start.

    Beginning with one officer in a school could well lead to surprising outcomes….and some good outcomes that may never become public knowledge…but the overall effect will be noticed in time.

    What do you have to lose? Nothing you’ve tried – if anything – has made a dent.
    The goal is trust and communication.
    Sharon O’Hara

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