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School Resource Officers

There is a simple solution to the problem of understaffed law enforcement agencies lacking the resources to put cops and deputies in public schools. Departments around the country are having a difficult time hiring and retaining officers and deputies to patrol the streets thanks to self-serving politicians who have called for defunding the police, politically-motivated prosecutors wanting to enhance their careers with malicious prosecutions of officers, and anti-police diatribes from the media. Agencies just don't have the resources to accommodate public schools with officers to keep children safe. While I applaud the Gadsden school district for allowing parents to patrol the grounds, the reality is that armed officers are needed. But where to get them?

This county has an abundance of retired cops who would be more than happy to fill the role. The public school systems (Las Cruces, Hatch, Gadsden) could either start their own police departments, or contract with retired officers. It is a simple enough solution that would leave law enforcement agencies free to utilize their officers for what they are hired and paid for: enforce statutes and ordinances on the streets and respond to calls instead of playing kiddy cop in school hallways.

So why hasn't it been done?

The public schools, after all, pay the city for the services of the officers who patrol their hallways. So the argument cannot be fiduciary, because one way or the other the school systems are going to pay out. And it does not affect budget with regards to retirement plans, because cops who retire under PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) can go to work for the schools or universities as a cop and still collect their PERA pension and not have to pay into the ERB (Education Retirement Board) pension plan, i.e., if the cops are not paying into ERB retirement there is nothing for the school system to match with regards to pension funds. The only possible detriment financially could be Gov. Grisham's latest contribution to further burden employers in the state by requiring them to give all employees sick leave, regardless if they are seasonal, temporary, part-time, or already have a health & hospitalization plan due to retirement. One of the exceptions is contract workers, so possibly the schools could get around the sick leave requirement by contracting with SROs.

The public, especially those with children in schools that don't have cops assigned to them, need to badger the superintendents and school board members over this. It's doable, just need to get the ball rolling. The details can be worked out, not the least of which would be duties and responsibilities of SROs. Would they be present for safety and security or would they have enforcement powers? To enforce the law they would need to be sworn, full-time salaried LEOs. If all parents want are experienced armed officers patrolling hallways to prevent another Uvalde, then the solution is obvious. I don't really see a need for cops with arrest powers, because if there is a criminal violation that the schools do not want to handle, the police are just a phone call away.

I can tell you from experience that some principals, just a few, think that the officer assigned to their school is their personal employee and can be directed to perform duties as they see fit. I remember an LCPD officer who wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree chasing down a kid who ran from her when she tried to enforce a school dress code on him (his trousers sagged and half his rear end was hanging out, making his choice of underwear plainly visible). During the foot chase the kid tripped and hit head first on the cement, knocking out his front teeth.

We need officers and deputies on the street to respond to calls for service. The idea of departments putting SROs into public schools is archaic and needs reformation. At this point, the focus should be retired officers who are armed and present to stop violence. Some schools are bigger than others, so having one retired cop on campus may not be enough. Other sources have mentioned using former military, which I disagree with based solely on the premise that an officer with twenty plus years has problem-solving and people skills that are different than what young men employ while serving in front-line combat infantry units. And, besides, many of the retirees still have valid commissions with the state and have been through the battery of psychological tests they had to pass to get hired in the first place.

I suspect this will be in the debate phase until an actual killing happens and then a mad scramble will occur to put bodies in the schools, i.e., closing the corral gate after the herd has run out. It's the Las Cruces way.

Semper Fi.


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