News and Information
POST MULLS STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS
Concerns Raised About Officer Competence and Training
The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POSTC) conducted its most recent public hearing on Tuesday December 6th 2022 at 10AM. The meeting was conducted remotely and was moderated by POSTC Executive Director Enrique Zuniga. Post Commissioners Larry Calderone and Larry Ellison represented the Commission during the hearing. Rules governing the assignment of School Resource Officers were the topic of discussion, followed by short discussion on POSTC policy regarding the release of police officer’s personal files to the public.
From the outset, concerns over police officer competence, along with protecting turf became very clear. Tracey Connell Novick representing the Worcester School Committee expressed reservations about the assumptions underlying the concept of School Resource Officers (SRO). Novick said that Worcester had adopted a “school liaison” not an SRO model to govern interactions between the police and the schools Under such a program, an officer is not directly assigned to the schools. She said that this model was more consistent with “community policing”. She said that many of the assumptions underlying the deployment of police in schools are faulty, adding that they can actually cause more disruption. She did not give specifics other than to say that police should never be involved with administering internal school discipline. She closed by saying that the Worcester School Committee had deep concerns with the draft regulations because they allowed the Police Chief, not the head school administrator, or the school committee, to make the appointments of SROs.
Lisa Thuro, representing the non-profit “Strategies For Youth” , a child advocacy organization, said that the purpose of POST was (1) transcend local control (2) establish uniform standards and (3) institute a system for accountability. She said that the commission had a responsibility to determine how SRO’s will be selected, whether to require MOUs between schools and police agencies and (3) ensure that adequate training of officers is offered. She discussed concerns over potential disparate impacts on black, Hispanic and developmentally disabled students. Many of her concerns were echoed by Leon Smith from the “Center For Criminal Justice” another non-profit organization. Smith stressed that police should never be utilized to administer school discipline, adding that the proposed regulations must make provisions for performance standards and a complaint review process. He also insisted that an MOU be required.
David Walker, also representing “Strategies For Youth” said that the certification component of the regulations was a critical consideration. He questioned whether the Municipal Police Training Council (MPTC) was capable of offering the quality of training necessary to ensure SRO’s can be effective in a school environment. He emphasized that the issue of “suitability” for those who hold the SRO position was central effectiveness. He expressed concerns that Chief’s would assign officers based solely on seniority. He recommended that specific standards be implemented
Dennis Galvin representing MAPLE, testified that school violence is a reality and can disrupt the mission of education. He offered the recent closure of the Mission School in Boston as a case study of a school in which order breaks down. Galvin acknowledged that concerns about police competence are warranted and concurred that the “suitability” of officers for SRO duties was critical. He said that it is becoming more obvious that policing is evolving into a highly complex area of expertise and that academic training for officers is very much indicated. Galvin asked the Commission to reconsider its rejection of an entry standard requirement of a two year degree and suggested that for a position as sensitive as an SRO, a bachelor’s degree should be required.
With regard to the question of the release of personnel information about police officers, it was disclosed that the POSTC commission had wide discretion, and may consider the health and safety of officers in deciding what to release. Rebecca Jacobstein, representing the Committee For Public Counsel testified that there are too many protections governing the release of an officer’s personal files. Galvin reminded the Commission that policing often occurs in a very unstable and at times violent environment and that this reality must be strongly considered whenever a release of an officer’s personal files is contemplated. The only other police focused organization offering testimony during this hearing was MACLEA