How Many Cops Should Patrol Schools?

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The County Commissioners touched on a debate last week
that has surfaced in jurisdictions across the country. The issue years ago,
prior to the eruption of school violence, revolved around the question: should
cops be in school to maintain peace and order? The answer to that is yes,
leading to the next quandary: how many cops does it take to keep our kids
secure?

Clearly, the answer to that question depends on whether
it’s urban or rural districts. Sheriff Chuck Martin, who came before the County
Commissioners to make his budget requests for the next fiscal year, broached
the issue last week. Martin is asking for three school resource officers to
patrol and work with the schools. Most of the commissioners seemed on board
with the matter, but County Commissioner Judy Boggs took the least popular,
although perhaps most ideological, view on the matter.

Before signing off on the three new officers for the
schools, Boggs said she wanted to see concrete proof the positions were needed
and asked the Board of Education to weigh in on the matter. “I really do not
want to see police cars in front of our schools,” Boggs said.

Although outnumbered by her colleagues, Boggs was right to
question the matter and want to hear from school officials prior to backing the
proposal. In this day of deplorable school violence, it’s predictable for the
commissioners to simply roll over and acquiesce. Anything to protect the kids
was a common mantra echoed by commissioners supporting the expansion of
community policing. That’s understandable and reasonable, especially
considering what County Commissioner Bobby Cowger made clear last week – the
public school system has some safety concerns. "I’m glad [my son] will be
getting out of that high school. There are problems in our schools,” said
Cowger, referring to Pocomoke High School. “I’m not going to put a monetary
value on my son’s life.”

There needs to be a balance here. On one hand, to ensure
our kids are safe in public schools, there needs to be a police presence. It
has worked at Stephen Decatur High School over the years with a Berlin officer
often on hand during school hours. However, there’s a fine line between having
a presence and making the school seem like a police state. Some schools need more
police officers on hand than others. However, this cannot be a blanket policy –
it needs to be taken on an individual case basis and reviewed often.

Of course, keeping the schools safe and secure is a
priority for all, but simply assigning three new officers to the county’s 14
public schools does not automatically mean it’s safe. There will need to be a
reasoned approach to using these new positions and a strategy on how best to
deplore them.

The
commissioners will most likely okay the expenditure for the new officers, and
it’s the right thing to do, but it was also wise of Boggs to stand her ground
and ask the unpopular questions. Before signing off on the new cops, it’s our
hope the county hears more from the school board and the sheriff on why these positions
are needed and where they should be assigned during the school year and what
they will be doing when school is not in session. 

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