10-02-2023  8:37 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Kimberely Dixon, Kristen Downs, Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee, and Antoinette Edwards
Published: 16 February 2023

We represent a grassroots community of Portlanders who want to see School Resource Officers (SROs) back in Portland Public Schools (PPS). So far, more than 600 PPS students, staff, parents and neighbors have signed our petition to the school board, the superintendent, mayor and city council urging restoration of this valuable program. Our reason is simple – a trained, daily security presence in and around schools, along with existing supports, will act as a deterrent to criminal activity and keep our students, staff and neighborhoods safer.

PPS is losing students and we believe school safety retains a diverse student body, staff and funding.

In the past year there have been multiple drug overdoses at McDaniel High School, a drug dealer arrested at Cleveland High, and since October there have been four school shootings at three different PPS high schools. Under a formal oversight agreement, SROs work in tandem with educators, counselors, mental health professionals, and Youth Violence Prevention and Response Managers to proactively address school safety issues, divert at-risk students from the juvenile justice system, and deter violence. They also forge positive relationships whether teaching in class, lunchtime conversations, or attending PIL events. SRO’s are a navigator of support when students need to report child abuse, theft, harassment, sex/drug trafficking or other concerns, and they facilitate de-escalations along with resource referrals for families, however, school discipline resides with school administrators, not the SRO.

According to the Portland Police Department, officers who apply for School Resource Officer positions undergo about 350 hours of training to meet NASRO and OSROA standards to work in schools with a focus on restorative justice. The officers are chosen based on their desire to work with youth and are successful in developing a positive rapport that enables children to confide in them.

While the SRO program was in PPS, students, particularly from Benson and Jefferson high schools, met in Holladay Park to protest in Portland. They applauded the SRO's who attended their marches and walked alongside them. These students were passionate and authentic supporters of the plain clothes officers, and as a result, their peers trusted and accepted their partnership.

The Portland Police Department funded SROs prior to their removal in 2020. According to Portland’s city-wide incident response data, 50% of the 5,211 calls for service during the 2018-19 school year involved an SRO response. The majority of calls made originated from school or community members, yielding 45 restorative justice interventions and only 20 arrests. In 2019-20, the number decreased to only 11 arrests for outstanding warrants. 

The Beaverton Police Department has had a relationship with the Beaverton School district, the third largest school district in the state, for over 40 years. From 2015-2019, 96% of the arrests/referrals were generated either by staff, students, parents or the community, only 4% were generated by SROs. Demographic data from 2016-2020 indicated the following referrals/arrests by race: 46.8% White, 38.2% Hispanic, 8.3% Black, 2.5% Pacific Islander, 1.5% Asian, 1.5% other.

According to the Lake Oswego Police Department and Lake Oswego School District records, from 2017-2020 there were only 44 custody/referral reports completed on school properties by SROs and patrol in the span of four years, compared to 23 police reports in 2016 when no SROS were assigned due to budget cuts, indicating a higher rate of criminal prosecution when 911 calls are made. Demographics of the 44 referral reports from 2017-2020 included: 89% White, 5% Black, 5% Asian and 2% Hispanic. By having SROs work in partnership and alongside with school administrators, not all reports are immediately sent to the Clackamas County Juvenile Department.

We are engaging the superintendent, school board, city leaders, law enforcement, the DA and state leaders to align resources and prioritize safety in and around our school communities. Your commitment in this partnership is paramount to its success - join our growing coalition by signing this petition to reinstate specially trained SROs to deter crime and ensure PPS student, staff and neighborhood safety: Reinstate PPS School Resource Officers.

–Kimberely Dixon and Kristen Downs, PPS parents and community advocates
–Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee, Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC)
–Antoinette Edwards, Community Elder and retired director of Portland’s Office for Violence Prevention (OVP)

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