Sever ties between school resource officers and ICE |

Sever ties between school resource officers and ICE

Post Independent Opinion
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

In recent weeks, the subject of school resource officers (SROs) cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been questioned and criticized.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is advocating to put an end to such an arrangement.

We’d have to agree. We suggest that the school districts that use SROs enact a clear policy barring these officers from having formal collaborative relations with ICE. It puts too much of a chill on SRO work with students.

The school resource officer position has a distinct purpose, to put a human face on the police department and build positive relationships between law enforcement and young people. Students get the opportunity to learn that police officers are more than just the men or women they see should they get in trouble, and it’s a very worthwhile program.

The Roaring Fork School District believes in this idea enough to contribute $15,000 each to the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt police departments to support the SRO program. Even in tight budget times, we feel this is a worthy expenditure.

But SROs, particularly young police officers at the beginning of their careers, need clear guidelines on carrying out their mission.

It seems glaringly obvious that working with ICE runs counter to the intention of the SRO program. Those students who have a reason to be concerned about their immigration status can hardly be expected to trust an officer who is known to be cooperating with an agency that is in the business of deportation.

ICE has a job to do, but it shouldn’t be taking advantage of the friendships forged between SROs and students, or the information SROs pick up by spending lots of time in schools. And an SRO has no business questioning kids about their family’s immigration status or relaying that information to federal authorities.

We understand that serving as an SRO is only part of the duties of officers assigned to that beat. There is still other police work to be done. With that in mind, it will probably be difficult for any SRO to completely gain students’ trust. And some kids will never like cops.

But there is a difference between disliking a cop because he’s enforcing state and local laws and disliking a cop because you’re afraid he’s going to send you or an otherwise law-abiding family member away.

Therefore, we urge school districts using SROs to adopt a policy forbidding these officers from having formal working relationships with federal immigration authorities.

The policy could also detail relationships with other agencies as well, so that when police departments and SROs are approached by ICE or some other agency, they would have clear direction on how to respond.

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