The Plattsburgh Common Council recently decided not to renew a contract with the city school district allowing the police department to provide School Resource Officers. At the latest council meeting, several residents were in City Hall to criticize the move.
For two years the Plattsburgh City Police Department contracted with the city school district to provide two retired officers to work as School Resource Officers or SRO’s. When the contract came up for the 2020-2021 school year the police chief checked with the city attorney and then brought it to the city council for final approval. But councilors unanimously rejected it, led at the time by Ward 5 Independent Patrick McFarlin: “There is absolutely no reason for police officers in schools. It does not make schools more safe and certainly does not help our students. It associates them with the criminal justice system early.”
The move surprised the Police Chief and incensed school district administrators, who said they were not informed about the planned vote. During the council’s latest meeting several residents stepped up to comment. Only one individual, who identified herself as the Vice President of Academics for Partnership Schools, a network of Catholic schools, supported the decision. “I just want say to thank you for your unanimous decision. I think it was bold. I think it was profoundly consequential and I think it’s a critical step in protecting the liberties of our children and restoring the freedoms of childhood back to our youth. It’s made the social contract that we’ve entered into as a community much stronger.”
The remaining residents who spoke slammed the decision. Seth Silver, a peace officer who works at SUNY Plattsburgh, called the council’s decision short sighted. “It was based on poorly done and little research. In Plattsburgh they don’t make arrests. They’re not there looking in the hallways for violations and grabbing people. They’re there as first responders and they’re there to diffuse situations and they do a great job at it. If this weren’t the case and they were in the school casing harm and locking kids up the school district simply wouldn’t want them. And that’s not the case here. The district appeared to be blindsided by this decision and they in fact do want them as do the residents and parents and teachers and staff in the buildings.”
City resident Matthew Favreau says the council’s decision has put his family at risk. “There is a complete lack of understanding of what the School Resource Officers do in our schools. This board has twice prior to this ratified this contract. What has happened in the two years since you ratified the last contract in our schools that you think means that we should not have School Resource Officers right now? What’s happened in our schools? Did anybody from this council speak to a board member, and administrator, a principle, a teacher before making this decision? I’ve spoken to over a hundred since this decision was made. Not one of them, not one of them, thinks you made a good decision.”
Charlie Scott, one of the two SROs impacted by the council’s vote, described his daily duties and interaction with students. “My presence is certainly enhancing the safety of children and I would wholeheartedly respectfully request that you reconsider your vote on this contract.”
Mayor Colin Read defended the council’s decision. “They did not ban SROs. They encouraged the school district to look at other avenues to provide SROs if they wish.”
The council has not reconsidered the contract.