The MCPS School Resource Officer (SRO) program has been a hot topic of debate over the past couple of years. SROs are police officers who work for the Montgomery County Police Department in conjunction with MCPS within schools to protect students “whenever possible.”
However, it has been argued that SROs have a propensity to target students of color and students with disabilities, resulting in higher arrest rates for those groups. Also, there has been an increased backlash from students and families that these officers should not be the solution for the growing mental health crisis, and instead MCPS should invest in more mental health resources.
One of the many changes being made by MCPS over the next few years in their fight against discrimination within the distict includes the complete revamp of this SRO program. During this school year, SROs were removed from schools; next year, the community will tentatively see the new and improved Community Engagement Officer (CEO).
Compared to SROs, CEOs will play a very passive role, if any, within schools. With these new positions, there is a strong emphasis on “community.” CEOs will not be permanently stationed within a certain MCPS school, but will float within school clusters (which will now include elementary schools). According to Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, CEOs are expected to be around schools during “high-volume times,” like before and after school and during lunch.
Most notably, CEOs will not be permitted to respond to school incidents, such as classroom disruptions and students smoking weed, in order to reduce unnecessary arrests, according to Chief Jones. As police officers though, they are still permitted to respond to significant threats, like sexual assults, hate crimes, and other crimes requiring a 9-1-1 call.
The details of this program are not yet finalized, and the MCPD hopes to collaborate with MCPS to help refine the CEO 2.0 initiative before it hopefully kicks off next school year.