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Buffalo Public School Board discusses role of police officers in schools

Posted at 11:33 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 23:39:56-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Public School Board discussed the role of police officers in schools during Wednesday evening's virtual school board meeting.

School resource officers, also known as SROs, are members of the Buffalo Police Department. They are trained on how to deal with students, and resolve conflicts. Buffalo Public School Board member Terrance Heard said they're more than officers. He said they form relationships with students and coach sports teams.

The officers are the first to respond to 911 calls at any of the city's schools, and are paid by BPD.

“I’d rather have an SRO respond to an incident in our schools than have an officer, you know get called in off the streets, that might not know our children," Heard said. "And may not have a relationship with them, and may treat them differently.”

There are other school safety officers that are not members of the police department. Board member Jennifer Mecozzi asked for clarity during the meeting, as to why the different types of security are needed.

“I need to know why we don’t have just security officers playing all the roles, and why we’re not paying those folks, and we have this department within our school," Mecozzi said.

Five of the city's high schools have a third type of security, off-duty police officers paid by the school district, according to Fred Wagstaff, Executive Director of Safety and Security for Buffalo Public Schools.

Heard said that has some board members on opposite sides.

“The board sees that the off-duty officers as being paid by the district, and they might not have the training the SRO’s have," he said. "And we’re going to make sure they treat our kids adequately.”

The Buffalo Public School district faces a $90 million budget deficit for the 2020-2021 school year. Heard said it's something the district has never seen before.

In a letter to board members Superintendent Kriner Cash said the deficit is likely to grow with expected cuts to state aid.

The deficit looms as the city works to reopen schools, examining everything from health screenings, to class size, to the cleaning of buildings.