Madison’s City Council approved a contract with the Madison Metropolitan School District that keeps police officers in schools and allows for the possibility of removing an officer from one of the four major city high schools.
The Madison School Board approved a contract June 10 that keeps school resource officers in the city’s four high schools. Under the three-year contract, MMSD would reimburse the city for salary and benefit costs of the school resource officers.
Council President Shiva Bidar, who represents District 5, said the contract “moves the ball forward” by allowing the school district to have the option of removing an SRO.
“We would not be doing a due diligence of work to not allow the school board to have a plan they put forward,” Bidar said.
MMSD has the ability to test out the absence of an SRO starting in the 2020-21 school year. The district also has the option to move down from four to three officers before the start of the 2020-21 school year as well as halfway through the 2020-21 school year.
The City Council voted 15-4 to approve the contract, with Ald. Tag Evers, District 13, abstaining from voting.
“We need a paradigm shift in the area of racial justice,” Evers said. “SROs are not it.”
Alds. Grant Foster, District 15; Rebecca Kemble, District 18; Avra Reddy, District 8; and Marsha Rummel, District 6, voted against the contract.
Kemble argued that the city should not be contracting out police officers with any entity, especially when the police department cites a need for patrol officers and investigative resources. She called the contract “bad public policy.”
Further, Kemble said she believes the school resource officers will not address the school environment.
“Four officers are not going to improve the climate of their schools,” Kemble said. “In fact, for many people, they make it worse.”
Shyra Adams, a youth coordinator at Freedom, Inc. described a situation where police intervened after getting into an altercation with another student in the lunch line, stemming from Adams defending a third student who “cut” in line.
“Invest into youth of color,” Adams said. “Invest into them and not cops.”
Assistant Chief of Police John Patterson said every student cited is offered a restorative justice diversion away from Madison’s Municipal Court, meaning that formal consequences can be avoided.
In the 2018-19 school year, the MPD reported 45 citations, the lowest in four years, at MMSD high schools, and 39 arrests, the second lowest in four years. Of the citations, 27 were issued to black students and 30 black students were arrested.
The adopted contract runs from Aug. 1 through June 15, 2022.
In 2019, to date, MMSD has been invoiced $152,900 for the 2018-2019 school year, which fell under the previous contract. The city estimates that $213,700 will be invoiced for the remainder of 2019 under the new contract.
MMSD would also pay the city $110 for the use of four vehicles — $27.50 per vehicle — each week for each school year during the hours that the officers are on duty.
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.