Howard County executive eyes changes for school resource officers

Howard County, Maryland’s, top official outlined a number of proposed changes to how police officers stationed in schools — called school resource officers — interact with their communities.

The issue of placing police officers in schools has been widely debated, with some being of the opinion that stationing police inside school buildings leads to unequal policing of students of color. Still, others argue that they are necessary to ensure students’ safety.

County Executive Calvin Ball said he recognized that changes were necessary to promote equity, but offered his support for keeping student resource offices in public schools.

“I wholeheartedly believe that our community can find the right balance to preserve safety, promote equity and make progress on our county’s inclusive values and academic success,” Ball said in a new release. “I am well aware that in our own backyard we have work to do as it relates to remedying persisted inequities. I believe that we can do that by moving forward with a specifically tailored approach to evaluating, modifying, and maintaining our School Resource Officer Program.”

Ball’s proposed changes include:

  • Removing officers from all middle schools.
  • Requiring the use of body-worn cameras while officers are on campus.
  • Changing officers’ uniforms to polos and khakis in an effort to make them more approachable.
  • Requiring equity training for officers and all school system personnel.
  • Establishing an SRO community work group comprising students, educators, community stakeholders, and consideration of added Howard County police representation before eliminating the current program and proposals.
  • Requiring an annual review of the SRO program.

The Howard County Board of Education will vote April 29 on whether to accept the proposed changes or end the SRO program entirely.

In Montgomery County, there has been a push to remove school resource officers from schools that has strong support from Council Member Will Jawando.

A survey in Prince George’s County found that 82% of respondents that school resource officers were important to the safety and well-being of schools.

A bill was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly in February 2021 that would replace resource officers with school counselors. The “Counselors Not Cops Act” would require a yearly $10 million budget to be used on expanding mental health services in schools.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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