School Officers, Principals Discuss Relationship-Building at Forum

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high school principals and police officers joined a forum Thursday night about relationship-building and the role of officers in schools.  

“[I] try to tell them we’re not an occupying force,” said Officer Brandon McCloud, the Community Engagement Officer at Paint Branch High School. “We’re not there to get you, we’re there to serve, to be mentors.”

“We don’t patrol the hallways, the primary thing we do is, we just build relationships,” said Officer P.J. Gregory, who is the Community Engagement Officer at Northwest High School. “That’s the major thing.”

This week, 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. While that was a different situation, Gregory said, there have been numerous times when school officers were able to resolve incidents before they even happened because students shared information with them.

“Because of the relationships that we have with the students, we’re privy to a lot of information,” he said.

Last August, MCPS changed its School Resource Officer program to instead have Community Engagement Officers, or CEOs, assigned to school clusters. They were not stationed inside the school building or on campus but in surrounding neighborhoods outside the school.

But, incidents of violence this academic year, including the January school shooting at Magruder High that critically injured a 15-year-old student, prompted officials to establish an updated officer model, called the “CEO 2.0 Program.” The updated model went into effect last month.

Under the new Memorandum of Understanding, CEOs have a direct line of communication with schools but do not respond for routine school discipline. They have a private office space at each high school but are not permanently stationed inside any school.

Thursday’s event was hosted by Community Partners for Public Safety.

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