MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Maple Grove and White Bear Lake police departments announced on Monday the suspension of its school resource officer (SRO) program due to "ongoing confusion" over a new state law.
Law enforcement agencies have raised the alarm in recent weeks over the law change in the last legislative session that bars SROs from using specific holds and putting students in the prone position. Officials have argued that the new law creates confusion on when and how officers can intervene in conflicts at school.
Maple Grove Police Department
Maple Grove police chief Eric Werner announced the SROs will no longer be inside the Maple Grove or Osseo middle and high schools and the program will remain suspended "until the law is changed."
"It's become increasingly more difficult for me to ensure our dedicated SROs have clear statutory authority to carry out their responsibilities to keep students, staff, and our school community safe with the recent law change. Implementing work-around for school safety is just not feasible," said Werner in a statement.
Chief Werner explained the law about changes in restraints "does not apply to police officers who are not under a school contract." Therefore, the officers will be moved to the patrol division around the Maple Grove school area and respond to calls as needed in addition to providing safety and security to the schools.
"It is unreasonable that a highly trained veteran officer assigned as an SRO is now required to stand by and call a patrol officer to perform the duties they have trained for years to perform," said Werner. "The use-of-force in the school environment is extremely low. However, when split-second decisions occur, SROs must be able to intervene and de-escalate a situation to keep students and school staff safe."
White Bear Lake Police Department
White Bear Police Chief Dale Hager announced the suspension of SROs in White Bear Lake schools until the legislature addresses the recent law change.
"Our hope is that, someday, we are able to reinstate our agreement. Until that time, in light of the current legislation, it is not in the best interest of our officers to continue with the requirements of the agreement. We look forward to a resolution by the Governor and legislature, and we will continue to support both our officers and White Bear Lake Area Schools, within the new confines of the law," said Hager in a statement.
SROs will no longer be working under contract but will respond to school district-related calls and conduct regular walkthroughs at schools daily as time permits. Chief Walker said officers will still be stationed at football games to help provide a safe environment.
The Brooklyn Park Police Department made a similar announcement on Sept. 14, suspending its SRO program due to "a series of challenging incidents."
Click here for a list of agencies that have announced their plans for their SRO programs.