Your Views: Bring back the SROs

Your Views: Bring back the SROs
The Alexandria Police Department Headquarters. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

To the editor:

Alexandria schools are now back in session, but without our school resource officers, who are members of the Alexandria Police Department on special assignment. Our elected School Board and school administrators negotiated with the APD how they wanted the SROs to operate in their schools, but this summer Alexandria’s City Councilors decided they have more knowledge than our School Board and in a 4-3 vote decided to dismiss the SROs from our schools.

Our School Board members are elected volunteers who deal exclusively with school issues jointly with our school administrators. Yet, their opinions were dismissed and overruled by City Council.

Let’s unpack this issue. If you study the recent school shootings around the United States, they have lasted 10 to 20 minutes. The APD couldn’t even respond from their current locations during that time. The incident would be over. Once the APD arrives on site, they would have to rely on school personnel to find the correct location.

Conversely, an on-site SRO would already be familiar with the school and could respond almost instantly to the incident, thus potentially saving someone’s life. SROs are also there to develop relationships with students so they feel comfortable confiding in them about being bullied and abused. They are not there to make immigration arrests or harass students in any way.

Don’t fool yourself, there are crimes going on in our schools. Haven’t you heard about all the recent incidents in the high school? How about the recent uptick in crime and shootings in our city in general? There is gang, drug and crime activity in our community and schools.

Ever since the horrific George Floyd murder, police around the country have been vilified and many communities are exploring defunding their police departments. This is just plain wrong on many fronts. Our police officers are not the enemy or the criminals. Our students need to learn at an early age that police officers can be their friends and are there to protect and serve the community – the community in which they also live and have children in schools.

A student may not know where to turn to deal with the bad things going on in schools. They may not feel comfortable talking with school personnel or even to their own parents. So, they turn to an SRO who they have known and developed a strong professional relationship with.

Our school administrators have hired private security personnel for our high school. These security officers go through a 40- to 80-hour security officer class to become certified. They don’t have any of the experience, training and professional experience to handle this job like our well-trained APD officers. This approach is also costly and these funds could be better spent on our students.

It’s time to bring back our APD school resource officers. Please tell City Council members to reverse their decision. And if they don’t, there is always our November election to send a strong message. Our city, schools and most importantly our children deserve a safe environment.

-Bryan B. Kirkes, Alexandria