Howard County Executive Calvin Ball detailed new policy for School Resource Officers, addressing community concerns and input over the past year. Ball was joined by Howard County Police Department (HCPD) Chief Lisa Myers and State’s Attorney Rich Gibson as he outlined his support for keeping SROs in public schools. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“In many instances, SROs serve as a valuable part of the unique fabric of our schools and community here in Howard County,” said Ball. “Since the implementation of the program here in 1996, the role of SROs has been multifaceted as we have worked toward an ideal of preventative mediation measures, mentorship and strengthening community relationships with law enforcement. I wholeheartedly believe that our community can find the right balance to preserve safety, promote equity and make progress on our county’s inclusive values and academic success. I am well aware that in our own back yard we have work to do as it relates to remedying persisted inequities. I believe that we can do that by moving forward with a specifically tailored approach to evaluating, modifying, and maintaining our School Resource Officer Program.”
Ball recommended the following modifications to the current SRO program to ensure both students and educators feel supported and safe:
- Withdraw SROs from all Middle Schools.
- Require SROs to wear body worn cameras when on campus.
- Transition to a softer uniform (polo and khakis) to enhance approachability.
- Ensure that SRO’s will not be involved in any school-based disciplinary infractions.
- Require combined equity training of SROs and all school system personnel.
- Establish an SRO community workgroup comprised of students, educators, community stakeholders and consideration of added HCPD representation prior to eliminating the current program and proposals.
- Require an annual review of the SRO program based on the established MOU between HCPSS and HCPD
The Howard County Board of Education will vote April 29 to determine if the SRO program will move forward with these recommended modifications or end the SRO program.
“We maintain our ongoing commitment to work with school personnel to ensure equity and restorative justice practices in the schools,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “I believe we can find a way to build upon the successes of the SRO program while addressing issues that would benefit from modification. We should always be evaluating how to make improvements and evolve with the needs of our community. Our focus will continue to be on prevention, intervention and diversion programs that help keep students out of the criminal justice system.”
“When I first took office in 2019, one of my primary goals was to look into the existence of a school-to-prison pipeline here in Howard County and dismantle it if it was impacting justice here,” said State’s Attorney Rich Gibson. “What I have discovered is that a juvenile is more likely to enter the criminal justice system for robbing someone of their cell phone while on a bike path than being charged for an interaction that occurred on school grounds. While the STPP may be a concern across the country, there is no recent evidence to support its existence in our community.”