SOUTH BEND, Ind.–Do school resource officers, or police essentially, belong in schools? That’s a question that South Bend schools are pondering, with demands that they be taken out. The demands are coming from the NAACP South Bend chapter. But, some people are fighting to keep them there, saying they are a positive influence for the kids.
What ultimately happens in South Bend, could influence attitudes about resource officers around the state.
“From my perception and from the community members I have spoken with, they are in great support of SRO officers in the schools,” said South Bend School Board member Leslie Wesley, at a panel discussion Tuesday.
But, her viewpoint was refuted by NAACP members Trina Robinson and Drew Duncan, who led a movement in May to have those officers removed, saying their presence is part of a system of racism, and that resource officers disproportionately use force against students of color.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in that system, the system is built to chew up and spit poor Black, brown and white children out of it,” said Duncan.
Robsinson said the fact that there are some schools in the district that are functioning without the officers proves they are not needed.
“Some schools are without. Who’s patrolling those schools? And, those schools are running okay.”
Wesley countered that the officers can be a positive influence.
“This is not about the policeman. This is about building children,” she said. “Whether you’re there with a gun or a book, you should be there to empower those students.”
But, it may go beyond character building. The school resource officers have also proven to be solid defense mechanisms in some schools. In Corydon, in 2018, Officer Mark Bye was credited with possibly saving student lives by discovering a plan for a school shooting. Five students were arrested.
In 2020 Officer Greg Ross captured and arrested Michael K. Jones, in Columbus, who had loaded guns on school property.
It was not clear if the panel would have any influence over whether the South Bend School Board ends their agreement with the police department to have officers in the schools.