SROs to remain in Bloomington Public Schools

The choice to keep officers in schools

The choice to keep officers in schools

A recent law change is causing law enforcement to cut school resource officer partnerships, but some agencies are choosing to stay in schools while they find clarity.

Several law enforcement agencies have decided to pull school resource officers from schools, saying that a new law lacks clarity and would prevent them from doing their job.

The controversy over the law stems from confusion over the level of force SROs are allowed to use on students.

“It’s creating a distraction and you want to start a school year without distraction,” said Rick J. Kaufman, the executive director of community relations and emergency management for Bloomington Public Schools.

Bloomington Police Department and the school district are choosing to keep SROs in schools because they said safety is the number one priority for their students.

“It’s about making sure our schools are safe, and so we felt strongly about that,” Kaufman added. “We have police that are hired to go to our football games or some highly contested athletic events when there is friendly rivalry or not-so-friendly rivalries. We need those law enforcement officers there as well.”

The new law will change how SROs keep students safe.

It prohibits them from “placing a student in a face-down position” and bans certain holds on the head, neck and across most of the torso.

But critics explained the wording of the law is creating confusion.

“From an emergency management perspective, it is not clear,” Kaufman said.

Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges described the law as “terrible.”

Chief Hodges explained the decision to keep his officers in schools stemmed from keeping students safe.

“I couldn’t stomach if something happened to one of these kids because of some backdoor legislation,” he said. “No one’s out here to hurt anybody’s kids. That’s not why we’re up in arms about this. It prohibits police officers from doing their job that they’re legally able to do.”

If an SRO can’t legally respond to a situation, Hodges explained they can call in an officer for backup who is not held under the same standard of the law as an SRO.

He said that the only way to fix the problem and curb confusion is to change the law.

“Rectifying the law means removing the police officer agent from the statute. Just completely eliminate that from the law and we can go back to doing business the way we’re legally able to do,” he said. “Take the politics out of it and do what’s right.”

Gov. Tim Walz explained Tuesday that his goal is to continue to have conversations with district leaders to see if a solution can be reached.

He said he hasn’t ruled out a special session to change the law.