Denver PD begins placing armed officers inside schools after board's reversal on SROs

Armed and uniform officers will be in 11 high schools after the school board unanimously reversed a 2020 decision to remove SROs

By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post

DENVER — Twelve police officers will be stationed in 11 Denver high schools beginning next week in response to the recent shooting of two East High administrators by a student.

Two armed and uniformed officers from the Denver Police Department will be at East High School when classes resume Wednesday after spring break. Additionally, one officer will be at each of the following high schools: North, South, West, Montbello, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, Manual and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College.

The officers will remain on the campuses for at least the remainder of the school year. Denver Public Schools will convene a series of community meetings in the coming months to determine whether to implement school resource officers permanently.

“This is not the ultimate solution in creating safety in schools,” Denver police Chief Ron Thomas said of reinstating school resource officers. “We still believe there needs to be a community conversation so the ultimate decision is youth-informed and community-led.”

The decision to deploy armed officers to high schools following the March 22 shooting at East is a reversal of the Denver school board’s 2020 decision to remove all police officers from district schools. That decision followed the protests of the murder of George Floyd and board members argued that police officers in schools are harmful to students of color and play a role in the school-to-prison pipeline.

After the wounding of two administrators and the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old student in February, the school board last week directed Superintendent Alex Marrerro “to work collaboratively with Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other elected officials to offer and externally fund as many as two armed police officers and as many as two additional mental health professionals (social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists and/or therapists) to include but not limited to talk, group, family and/or art therapy at all high schools for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year.”

The 11 schools that will gain officers next week are a small fraction of the 42 campuses across the Denver Public Schools system that enroll high schoolers.

It’s unclear how many additional mental health professionals will be in the schools beginning next week. Denver Public Schools spokesman Scott Pribble said Thursday he did not have any numbers available as to additional mental health resources. Members of the district’s crisis recovery team will be at East beginning Monday through April 14 to support student mental health needs, according to a letter from the school’s principal.

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Approximately half of the school resource officers being deployed next week previously worked as school resource officers, Thomas said. All officers have several years of policing experience, he said.

Those who are not already certified as school resources officers will complete certification from the National Association of School Resource Officers within the next six months, which is required by state law.

The police department will foot the bill for the school resource officers through the end of the year, department spokesman Doug Schepman said.

Before the school board ended the use of officers in schools, the district and police department split the cost.

For example, Denver Public Schools paid the city $703,202 for 18 school resource officers during the 2018-2019 school year — about half of the total $1.3 million cost of the program, according to the contract between the two entities. The city absorbed the remaining cost.

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EARLIER: Denver Public Schools superintendent brings back SROs after school shooting

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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