Days before school starts, districts, police adjust to new SRO law
Educators and law enforcement in Minnesota are scrambling to interpret a new state law regarding school resource officers’ duties.
In Redwood Falls, teachers and staff are getting ready to start the school year next week.
Down the street at the police department, Monday morning started with Chief Jason Cotner trying to figure out what to do with the open school resource officer job.
“The timing on this is not great. The community wants the position, the school district certainly wants the position,” Cotner said. “It’s not like a regular patrolman job. Not everybody can do it. This is very specialized, very unique personality.”
Back on Friday, Cotner said the department’s SRO asked to step down citing concerns surrounding a new state law, asking instead to go back to being out on patrol.
Redwood Falls Police said the way they interpret the new Minnesota law is that a school resource officer can’t restrain a student unless there is imminent bodily harm and that such contact is not allowed in other situations.
“Now we’d have a police officer in this department with a different use of force rules than the other officers, so what does that look like in policy? I don’t know,” Cotner said.
We reported last week that the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office is pulling school resource officers from Andover schools.
The Anoka County Attorney’s Office explained concerns about the new law for SROs that “restricts their abilities to exercise independent, professional discretion in the use of force in difficult situations” and disallows prone restraints and certain physical holds.
Meanwhile, the Moorhead Police Department chose as well to pull their school resource officers out of buildings, citing in part insurance concerns on liability for school resource officers under the changes to the law.
Back in Redwood Falls, district leaders and the police department worked out a plan for the school year late Monday afternoon.
“It is unfortunate that the legislative revisions on SRO positions in schools have created a discussion other than what is best for our students and staff,” wrote Becky Cselovszki, superintendent of Redwood Area Schools. “Despite this fact, the Redwood Area School District will continue to work with the city on creating a safe atmosphere in our schools.”
The district said there will be an interim plan in place at the start of the school year.
Cselovszki shared they will now instead have a “child protection officer” from the police department in their building.
But now, the district will call police for any “escalated behaviors” of students that need other attention, according to the superintendent.
On Tuesday morning, Chief Cotner provided more details about the new position.
“But to be very clear, the investigator is just working out of their office space,” said Cotner. “He may be called upon for an emergency, but he is not an SRO.”
The Department is putting a pause in their SRO program, according to the Chief.