The Syracuse City School District has reached an agreement with city government to hire – and pay for – police officers to serve as School Resource Officers.
Common Councilor and former police chief Steve Thompson says the choice is left up to the district to determine where officers are needed.
"Instead of hiring an additional officer for the school, maybe they can hire security or other individuals to watch the different areas of the school, such as entrances. There's a whole montage of things they could do. It's up to them.”
Thompson says ideally, police wouldn’t have to intervene at a school, but adds the superintendent feels officers can be a valuable resource. Syracuse Police Benevolent Association President Jeffrey Piedmonte says resource officers must frequently navigate which issues require police intervention rather than an administrative presence.
"It's a fine line. If a student is getting thrown out of school by the principal, and he's listening, it's not a police issue. If he's not leaving, and he's told he has to or he'll be arrested for trespass, at that point, it becomes a police issue."
Some have expressed concern about recent violent interactions between resource officers and students, and if officers belong in schools at all. Councilor Thompson says sometimes the community may not fully understand when and why police need to use force.
"When they see something, as we have seen, and they think, "oh my gosh, he's wrestling with this person.' They don't realize what the function of the officer is when the officer is called into those situations, and what occurs when someone is being placed under arrest, and how people can flail and whatnot. They have to be taken into custody; you can't just back off."
Thompson thinks School Resource Officers know their responsibilities, in part thanks to the training they receive through a state certified curriculum. Chief Frank Fowler says the basic training acclimates resource officers to schools rather than the streets, and focuses on de-escalation skills.