As school resource officers — cops in the schools — draw scrutiny locally and nationally, St. Paul Public Schools is seeing officers play less of an enforcement role.
Officers made just one arrest in the first four months of the 2016-17 school year, compared with 21 in the same period a year ago, a district report shows.
Officers used force on 10 occasions — each involving the use of handcuffs, according to the data. But unlike a year ago, when officers deployed pepper spray in nine instances, there was no use of the irritant reported in the current school year.
District and police officials presented the data to the school board on Tuesday, five months after board members — heeding advice from students and social-justice advocates — pushed for contract changes aimed at having officers be a more positive presence in the schools.
Nine officers are stationed in the state’s second-largest district at a cost of $984,499 — of which the district pays $884,499 and the city $100,000. That discrepancy was criticized Tuesday by Davina Newman, a member of the district’s Student Engagement and Advancement Board.
The new contract requires officers to submit reports documenting proactive work as well as any physical contact they’ve had with students. Tuesday’s report put the number of positive first-quarter interactions at 775, compared with 593 cases in which officers advised or assisted administrators with cases involving low-level crimes and child welfare or other issues. “People are really impressed with how it’s worked so far,” Superintendent John Thein said.
Cops in schools still are a concern to others, however.
Last fall, the Minneapolis school board approved a new contract despite questions raised by the Minneapolis NAACP about racial profiling by police.
On Thursday night, Students for Education Reform (SFER Minnesota) is co-sponsoring a forum: “Why are police in our schools?” The event is free, and runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at St. Paul’s Central High.