City to consider SRO agreement with school district
During their Sept. 20 meeting, City Commissioners will consider the 2022-2022 school resource office agreement.
In the agreement, the city provides four police officers to Great Falls Public Schools and the district pays the city $359,307.50 for the year.
Under the agreement, the district covers 75 percent of the wages and associated equipment for the four SROs. The city pays the other $117,703 for the total cost of $470,810 to provide SRO services this fiscal year, according to the city staff report.
“The agreement formalizes the relationship between the participating entities in order to foster an efficient and cohesive program that will build positive relationships between law enforcement and the youth in our community, with the goal of reducing crime committed by juveniles and young adults,” according to the staff report.
The district and GFPD have partnered for about 25 years for the SRO program, according to the Great Falls Police Department.
In October 2021, Capt. Rob Moccasin of the GFPD said that for the 2020-2021 school year, SROs handles 440 complaints, up from 406 the previous year. The previous year it had been a spike with 660 complaints and in 2017-2018, there were 572 complaints, according to GFPD data.
The total police responses the previous year were lower compared to non-COVID years, Moccasin said, which isn’t surprising given the realities of the pandemic with less students in school, remote learning and closures.
Moccasin said during the 2021 meeting that SROs spent 390 hours during the last school year speaking with students about a range of topics and that broke down to 1,170 students, up by 112 students from the previous year. SROs informally mentor students, or simply chat about their lives, Moccasin said.
Of the students mentored by SROs in the 2020-2021 school year, 97 entered the criminal justice or youth court systems, Moccasin, up slightly from 92 the previous year.
The agreement between the city and GFPS delineates the “mission, terms, goals and procedures” of the SRO program.
“The SRO’s will establish a trusting channel of communication with students, parents and school 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,” according to the city staff report.