Crime spikes force schools to reinstate resource officers as defund movement collapses
Vice president of Fraternal Order of Police National said, 'Everybody's having buyer's remorse for defunding the police'
As the defund the police movement spread across the country like wildfire in 2020, school resource officers' budgets were slashed and many officers were removed from hallways. Nearly two years later, that’s beginning to change as crimes swell in public schools.
"I think what you're seeing and the reaction from these school districts is exactly what we're seeing in almost every major city in this country: Everybody's having buyer's remorse for defunding the police," Fraternal Order of Police National Vice President Joe Gamaldi told Fox News Digital on Monday.
"We had 16 American cities last year have their highest murder rates in recorded history, and now people are quickly backtracking and realizing that police officers provide safety in our communities," he added.
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In Montgomery County, Maryland, schools welcomed students back to campus this school year without officers patrolling the hallways for the first time since 2002. Instead, they had "community engagement officers" who patrol areas near the schools.
In the first four months of class, a staggering 1,688 911 calls were made. All in all, there have been 102 sex assaults, 87 assaults, 82 school threats, 76 controlled substance incidents, 57 weapon-related incidents, 57 conflicts, 35 mental health incidents, 28 property crimes and four robberies between August and February in the schools, 7News reported.
The crimes hit a fever pitch when a shooting rang out at Magruder High School in the county on Jan. 21, which intensified calls from the community to get police back on campus.
Now, the district is working on a plan to increase police presence at schools, though not to previous SRO levels.
It’s not a unique situation: Alexandria, Virginia, saw more of the same.
The Virginia school district was rocked by a spate of violent fights at the schools at the start of this school year, which some blamed on the Alexandria City Council voting to do away with the officers in the spring of 2021.
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"Our students are sending us warning shots, literally warning shots," Peter Balas, Alexandria City High School principal, said at an October meeting regarding bringing SROs back to campus. "Please reconsider this. My staff, my students. We’re not OK."
The city council ultimately voted in October to temporarily reinstate SROs in schools through the end of this school year.
And in California, the Pomona Unified School Board voted to defund its school police last year. But just four months later, SROs were back on campus after a shooting broke out near Pomona High School and left a 12-year-old injured.
To law enforcement officials who work as school resources officers, such as Rudy Perez, the vice president of the National Association of School Resource Officers, the job is "really not about being a cop." It’s instead "truly about being part of that ecosystem that you can address the safety issues, concerns that parents have, that teachers have."
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"I can honestly tell you as a campus law enforcement officer, it was more 90% … managing tension and figuring out problem-solving. Ten percent of it was really enforcement," Perez told Fox News Digital.
Activists, Democratic leaders and some students argued during the height of the defund movement that SROs should be removed from campus because Black and Latino students were being disproportionately arrested or disciplined, with many pointing to George Floyd’s death.
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"With the uprisings and the recent events that happened over the past year, students just don’t want to be greeted with police officers when they come back," Amir Whitaker, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, told the LA Times in July.
"Educators acknowledge that the fight to remove school police is part of the fight for racial justice," he added.
School resource officer programs began in the United States in the 1950s and became commonplace after the Columbine school shooting tragedy in 1999.
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police National, Patrick Yoes, told Fox News Digital that school resource officers primarily serve these jobs: providing safety and security within schools, "tearing down walls, building relationships with kids," and "law-related education."
Yoes said that having police officers within schools is "natural" and compared it to any large event or concert that requires police oversight to ensure safety.
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"I worked 36 years in law enforcement, and of that 36 years, I served as a resource officer at a high school in Louisiana. And I will tell you that bar none, it was the best job I've ever had because I went to work each day feeling like I was actually doing something and I could feel that I was having an impact," Yoes said.