Should schools have more police officers? Question stirs debate in Montgomery Co.

A debate is growing in Montgomery County, Maryland, over a piece of legislation that effectively calls for adding more police officers in schools by expanding the School Resource Officer Program.

During a public hearing Tuesday, several speakers told county council members that they strongly opposed the idea.

“For many parents, the presence of a school resource officer undermines the academic environment,” said Linda Plummer, the president of Montgomery County’s NAACP chapter.

Laurel Hoa went further than that.

“This would have disastrous consequences for populations already disproportionately subjected to police violence,” said Hoa. “The bill should be withdrawn or tabled.”

Others said that lawmakers should wait until they hear opinions from the county’s recently established police advisory commission which will be tasked with recommending legislation and policies for the police department to utilize. The council just approved the creation of that panel in December.

“This bill is well-meaning but it is rushed,” Steven Lapham said. “The new police advisory commission has not yet even had time to constitute itself.”

The legislation is not just about more police in schools — it would regulate the county’s police department in new ways.

According to the chief sponsor, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro, the bill would set specific standards for community policing by requiring officers to “ensure cultural competency” and “provide adequate training in de-escalation tactics.”

It would require annual reporting of data, such as officer demographics, use of force complaints and descriptions of specific community outreach initiatives.

“Montgomery County has changed, and we, as legislators, have a responsibility to guide our institutions to better reflect who we are as a community,” Navarro said.

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