City approves SRO contract for next school year

City Commissioners unanimously approved the contract with the Great Falls Public Schools district during their July 7 meeting for the school resource officer program for the 2020-2021 school year.

Commissioner Mary Moe said she had some concern about the program since the publication of an ACLU report last year that found disproportionate disciplinary rates for Native American students in Montana schools, particularly Great Falls.

City contract with GFPS for school resources officers on July 7 agenda

Some school and law enforcement officials have disputed the accuracy of the data and how it was collected for that report though GFPS reviewed and developed recommendation changes to address some of the identified problems.

Moe said she talked to GFPS officials who are “very enthusiastic” about the SRO program so she voted in favor of the contract, but said she’s like to see more data on race and gender in the annual SRO report to the district.

She said she’d also like to see a female SRO in the future.

There was no public comment on the item during the commission meeting.

GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore said he’d received no comments or feedback from the public regarding the SRO program over the last six weeks, other than a call from a teacher who was adamant about keeping the program.

There are currently four SROs, all of whom are detectives at the Great Falls Police Department.

There are currently two female detectives at GFPD and there was a female SRO previously who retired, according to Capt. John Schaffer at GFPD.

GFPS and the GFPD have partnered for more that 20 years with GFPD providing police services on a contract basis.

This contract is a continuation of that partnership and GFPS pays the city quarterly for an annual cost of $353,469.75 for the four officers to operate in district schools.

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According to the contract, which is available in the commission agenda documents, the “mission of the SRO program is the reduction and prevention of school-related violence and crimes committed by juveniles and young adults and to build relationships between law enforcement and the youth community. The SRO program aims to create and maintain safe, secure and orderly learning environments for students, teachers and staff. The SRO’s will serve as a positive role model to instill in students good moral standards, good judgment and discretion, respect for others, and a sincere concern for the school community. The SRO’s will promote citizen awareness of the law to enable students to become better-informed and effective citizens, while empowering students with the knowledge of law enforcement efforts and obligations regarding enforcement, as well as consequences for violations of the law. The SRO’s can serve as confidential sources of informal counseling for students and parents concerning problems they face, as well as providing information on community resources available to them.”