Police Won’t Patrol Inside Schools But Will Be Involved in School Safety

Under a newly-signed memorandum of understanding between Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery County Police Department, community police officers will have a designated space inside schools where they can speak with students, but they will not patrol hallways and outside grounds.

Under the new Community Engagement Officers 2.0, police officers will check into the high school, middle schools and elementary schools in their assigned cluster daily to speak with the principals. However, they will not be inside the building most of the school day.

Community Engagement Officers (CEO) will not be involved in discipline accept for major incidents or unless asked by school officials. If a student is found with drugs, the police will confiscate the drugs but it will be up to school officials on how to handle the matter.

Under the agreement, MCPS has the lead role in discipline. “We are owning that,” said Superintendent Monfia McKnight. MCPS has committed to be transparent and will review and evaluate school safety and security regularly, she said.

Together, police and school officials will increase training in such issues as equity, anti-bias and mental health. They will be involved in career days and similar programming.

MCPS officials have requested that the officers who do come into the school wear less military-like uniforms. Jones said that is still being worked out and must be approved through the collective bargaining unit before that can occur.

During the first semester that police were not in the schools daily, Jones reviewed data about the affects of the community engagement officer program. Data as of January 2020 showed that “young people of color are being arrested and referred to services at the same rate as their white counterparts,” he said.

According to Jones, the best way for police to have a positive effect is for officers to get to know the students. “Relationships matter,” Jones said. “You have to learn how to trust each other.” Police who have been assigned to schools attend sporting and other events, call troubled on their own time and do care, he stressed.

MCPS has hired 28 social workers, one medical officer and added new wellness centers in schools throughout the county in an effort to improve student and staff security.

Tuesday afternoon, county councilmembers were briefed on the memorandum.

Councilmember Craig Rice supported the agreement, calling it “a compromise. It is not perfect.” He added, “We want all parents to feel comfortable sending their kids to school.” However, he added, “We do not believe we should be policing our schools.”

While most councilmembers seemed content with the new agreement, Will Jawando expressed concern. He said there has not been enough time to evaluate the affects of keeping police out of schools and added, “This idea of police in schools equals safety is at best unproven.”

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