Police officers no longer walk the hallways at St. Paul Public Schools, but they will continue to provide security at big games and other events, district officials say.
School board members were briefed Tuesday about the select use of off-duty officers — a year after the district joined a wave of school systems nationwide ending the daily deployment of school resource officers (SROs).
Superintendent Joe Gothard and Chief Operations Officer Jackie Turner told board members they always planned to continue to bring in officers as part of a multilayered security presence at high-profile games.
The expected cost, Turner added, would not hit the $175,000-a-year threshold that would require board support.
For officers, the gig pays well. They collect overtime pay at rates ranging from $70 to $100 per hour for shifts that run 3½ to 4 hours, district spokesman Kevin Burns said.
Board Member Chauntyll Allen said that if the district wanted to pay overtime, it should tap its own paraprofessionals instead. They know students best, she added, and can help de-escalate tensions along with the new school support liaisons added after the district's jettisoning of SROs.
Many also would appreciate the bump in pay: "They may be able to pay their rent — you know?" she said.
School districts across the country began canceling contracts with police after the killing of George Floyd, with many students of color saying they did not feel trusted or valued with armed officers present.
A longtime Black Lives Matter activist, Allen likened continuing to use police to re-entering a box.
"The box doesn't work," she said. "The box creates mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline."
Gothard said stationing an officer at a large event is beneficial because they can step in to direct traffic if needed plus offer a skilled read on whether an incident requires calling in more officers.
"We may get a response that isn't warranted," he said, if someone else were to overreact.
As for when an off-duty officer might be needed, Turner cited a game between two large rivals on a Friday night. A Saturday noon game between teams in the same conference? Probably not, she said.
Turner added that the district has guidelines calling for people who rent facilities for weddings and other events to have an officer on-site when more than 200 people are expected. Then, the costs are passed on to the permit holder, she said.
Minneapolis Public Schools, which also parted ways with its SROs, did not reply to a request for information about its after-hours security practices.
Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109