Montgomery County police, schools still working out details on community engagement officer plans

The future role of police in Montgomery County, Maryland, schools is still being worked out, police and school officials said.

Police officer Casandra Tressler said in an email that a memorandum of understanding between the Montgomery County police and the school system is “being finalized at this time.”

Details of the MOU have not been made public, but school system spokesman Chris Cram said that some of the “expected content” in the MOU was available in the talking points presented by school officials.

The “MOU Highlights” explain that police, who have been designated as community engagement officers, or CEOs, would not patrol school hallways nor respond to school incidents. They would, though, take the lead in cases involving robberies, sexual assaults, deaths, firearms or gang-related incidents.

Under the revised school-policing role, officers would have a workstation in high schools, but they would not be stationed permanently inside school buildings. Ensuring that there would be no disproportionate impact on students of color or other student groups is described as “nonnegotiable” in the outline of the proposed plan.

During a briefing with reporters Monday, Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz was asked about recent student comments at a board meeting. A group of students, including at least nine from Magruder High School, continued to press for better access to mental health services and better communication as to what services are available to students.

At least one student told school board members that he would not be inclined to go to a police officer to discuss issues related to his own mental health.

Albornoz told reporters that he doesn’t think an either-or approach needs to be adopted.

Albornoz agreed with the students, saying, “we have to address the mental health issues, and more broadly, we have to address the root causes of some of the additional disruptive behavior that we’re seeing within our school system.”

“There are circumstances on the ground right now that are alarming,” Albornoz said, with some cases rising to the level that requires “that we have the appropriate level of security and safety in place.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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