Two Montgomery County Council members have introduced a bill that expands on an earlier effort to cut the number of school resource officers in the Maryland county’s schools.
In the latest version, co-sponsored by Council members Will Jawando and Hans Riemer, all of the SRO positions in the county’s high schools would be eliminated.
The bill was introduced during Tuesday’s council session, and although it was only in the introduction stage, several council members expressed their opinions on it.
Riemer urged the council to support the measure, saying, “My view is that police officers are there to make arrests. That’s how principals use them, and you know, that’s the system that we’ve built.”
Riemer made reference to a “school-to-prison pipeline,” which describes how harsh discipline policies can lead to student arrests and funnel students out of schools and into the criminal justice system.
County Council President Sidney Katz disagreed with Riemer’s characterization of the role of police in schools.
“I take great exception to the fact that you said their job is to make arrests,” Katz said. “Because that is not accurate.”
Katz said police serve as mentors to young people and said that he had seen the benefits of officers in schools personally.
Jawando said, “I think that this program, much like programs created across the country, was created with the best of intentions,” but Jawando said the data shows that police disproportionately target Black and Latino students.
“Of course, there are anecdotes and interactions that are positive between a trusted adult and an officer who cares about a student,” but Jawando said, “What we know is that disproportionate harm is happening.”
Council member Craig Rice, who has been supportive of the SRO program, responded to Jawando’s comments.
“For every student that you can produce that tells me that school resource officers are horrible and they don’t want them, I can produce the same number that say that they do. Same with parents, same with administrators, same with teachers,” Rice said.
Jawando said SROs would be better as “beat cops,” serving communities in areas near high schools, but outside of the school buildings.
“You’re talking about people who’ve had 20, sometimes 30 years’ experience on the force. You’re not going to assign them to a rookie patrol position,” Rice said.
A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Jan. 12.