April 15th, 2013 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: Cops and Courts, City Hall, Schools

Do Police in Schools Mean More Kids Charged with Crimes?

A New York Times story with implications for Portland budgeting

school_policeSchool resource officer - City of Portland photo

As Portland City Hall continues looking for $21.5 million in budget cuts, one of the expenses under the microscope is 23 police officers in Portland Public Schools.

The school resource officers, a $2.4 million annual expense, have been offered up by the Portland Police Bureau as a possible cut—the cops say patrolling schools isn't part of their core mission.

But as WW has previously reported, that offer puts Mayor Charlie Hales in a tough position, since he's loudly called for increased school security in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

A New York Times story last week may offer City Hall one good case for abandoning school police: Cops in schools means more crime in schools.  

The Times story, set mostly in Houston, explains:

As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office.

[...] The effectiveness of using police officers in schools to deter crime or the remote threat of armed intruders is unclear. The new N.R.A. report cites the example of a Mississippi assistant principal who in 1997 got a gun from his truck and disarmed a student who had killed two classmates, and another in California in which a school resource officer in 2001 wounded and arrested a student who had opened fire with a shotgun.

Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.

Advocates for Portland's school resource officers say the cops here are different—more interested in helping students than making arrests. And the City Budget Office cited that distinction in its analysis of school policing last month.

The budget office wrote that arrests in Portland Public Schools might rise without school police, since the units "prioritize keeping youth out of the criminal justice system when possible by working with community based restorative justice options."

Despite that, the budget office recommended cutting all but two of the school police.

 
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