2 more law enforcement agencies pull school resource officers; Gov. Walz responds

2 more law enforcement agencies pull school resource officers; Gov. Walz responds

2 more law enforcement agencies pull school resource officers; Gov. Walz responds

Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt said she had plans to expand her office’s school resource officer (SRO) program. Instead, on Tuesday morning, she announced the Sheriff’s Office will remove their sole SRO from Rockford High School ahead of the first day of classes next week.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Coon Rapids Police Department announced it too is out.

“When school starts next week, Coon Rapids Police will not have SROs working inside Anoka-Hennepin Schools,” read a Facebook post attributed to Chief Bill Steiner.

You could call it a domino effect. One by one, at least a handful of law enforcement agencies have pulled SROs from schools in the last two weeks following concerns over a new state law that prohibits certain types of restraint officers can use to defuse unruly conduct.

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As the trend continued on Tuesday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS took those concerns to Gov. Tim Walz during one of his State Fair stops.

“The Attorney General has said, ‘Look, if it’s life or death of the officer, the teacher or the student, you do what you need to do on that.’ There’s some law enforcement agencies, in 12 districts out of the several 100, who have chosen that they want more clarification on that. I’m certainly open to doing that,” Walz said.

“We shouldn’t have those discrepancies,” Sheriff Witt responded during a later interview at her office on Tuesday. “It should be written in a way that everybody understands it the same way so that we do not have any incidents in the future that are going to have backlash.”

“I was an SRO for six years,” she continued. “I can tell you from personal experience that there were times that I had to use restraint in order to protect students from each other or themselves, again, or the staff even.”

Witt said she won’t consider reversing her decision until the law is changed.

Asked if there is specific language that she believes needs to be added or taken out of the law, she said, “I would say it would be best to eliminate it.”

“We know what we need to do,” she continued. “We know that it’s supposed to be the least amount of force necessary to get a person or a situation under control.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for executive action to allow for a rewording or clarifying of the bill.

Asked if he plans to take action in an executive order or by calling a special session, Gov. Walz responded, “We’ll look at what the attorneys say on that. If it’s needed, we do, because we’re in total agreement on this that if schools want to use resource officers that they should be able to do so. We want to make sure that those officers feel like they are protected.”

“We’ll work hand-in-hand with them. If there’s a clarification, we’ll do it,” he continued.

The Blaine Police Chief and Centennial Schools Superintendent are scheduled to join Minnesota House and Senate Republicans for a press conference on Wednesday to share their message and talk about a possible law fix.