SSO or SRO? How About Both

SSO or SRO?  How About Both

Logan O'Brien, Contributor

Currently, in the Maple Run Unified School District, there are no School Resource Officers patrolling the schools. Instead, we have a School Safety Officer who replaced our wonderful SRO, Cpl. Kristine Koch. As of Oct. 1, BFA has been kept safe by the current School Safety Officer (SSO), William Westen, who is an unarmed uniformed person without law enforcement power. 

The day that School Resource Officers were removed from the Maple Run Unified School District was a huge mistake. Instead of having an officer on patrol, we have a security officer doing the job that both an officer and security officer could do in conjunction. 

In an article about the pros and cons of SROs in schools, a great point was made about how the response to a school threat is different from the perspective of an SRO to a responding officer. In the article, Michele Berke, a trustee from the FUSD board district, stated “‘If Fremont police come in, they come in with this mindset of ‘it’s a criminal activity and we have to deal with it,’ as opposed to [an SRO] who knows the students and the school site, and has a very different approach to intervening. [We want to make] sure that it doesn’t escalate to becoming this ‘all guns drawn, and we’re gonna take them down’ kind of attitude.’” 

Berke brings up a great point. When officers are heading into a situation, they have adrenaline on the rise as they come into a high-risk unknown situation. Though, if we had an SRO already on school grounds, then the situation would be responded to and dealt with using a more appropriate level of force. 

The issue with the SRO’s is that they can’t walk into a classroom without disrupting learning. In an interview with Westen, he said, “I put my hand in any class at any time, and it’s not intrusive.” He also commented, “I can sit down with a student instead of having to jump somebody [take law enforcement action].” 

Personally, I can understand how the SRO doesn’t have the ability to have a conversation on a calm level with a student like the SSO, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t work in conjunction with each other. If we have the police officer there for drug abuse, searches or when violence may occur, and have the safety officer there for one-on-one relationships and keeping students from getting into trouble by planning a different way around their actions, I feel that is the best of both worlds. 

If we had the SSO take care of checking in on classrooms and having the SRO take care of law enforcement duties within the school, then we would be using both of these resources available to the greatest extent possible. 

According to Westen, “Officers are trained and have a lot of experience in spotting [identifying people who are under the influence of an illicit substance]. Whereas, even though I’m trained in it [spotting], and I have experienced quite a bit, all I can do is bring them down to an administrator.”

This brings up the whole point of having the SRO there for situations like drug abuse or violent actions, to use them for what they are trained for, while the School Safety Officer could be doing what he has been trained to do and not feel powerless in a situation.

A great way to think of this situation is like having magnets. When you have a magnet all alone, it can pick up things that are of the opposite pole. Though, when you add a magnet that can pick up others, the two can work together to pick up as much as possible. This is much like the current situation: if you have an SSO alone doing their job and thriving, then that’s great. But then if you add an SRO, which is the opposite on the law enforcement spectrum, you get the opposites to work together to accomplish things in a much better way. 

Getting rid of SRO’s was a huge mistake, and that needs to be recognized. If someone ever came into one of the schools in the district with bad intentions, would you rather have an officer already at the school, or an officer going to the school with lights and sirens fighting traffic to get to a high-stress situation with a possible violent confrontation?