ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Just days into the new school year, sparks are flying over a new law limiting school resource officer's (SRO) use of force.
The new legislation has prompted some law enforcement agencies to pull uniformed officers out of schools, arguing it stops them from effectively serving, and makes the work of an SRO more dangerous.
On Thursday, a group of educators, concerned parents, and activists rallied at the Capitol, speaking out in defense of the law, insisting it does exactly what it was intended to do, protect students.
"We believe in educating and growing our people to be strong and brilliant. And adding any kind of force only inflicts trauma," said St. Paul School Board member Chauntyll Allen.
Supporters contend young students acting out in a school environment should receive support and care, and not face the potential of an SRO putting them in a dangerous hold.
"The law is clear that you can no longer restrain a child or put them in an unsafe restraint unless there is a threat of bodily harm or death," explained Jessica Webster, an attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
Law enforcement leaders across the state have raised concerns over what they have described as ambiguity in the statute, as well as the severe limitation of the use of prone restraints in a school setting.
"They want to diminish the officers’ authority. And we can't let that happen," Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told FOX 9’s Paul Blume, adding a prone restraint is often the safest way to handcuff a person.
Sheriff Fletcher pulled his agency’s SRO out of several schools including Mounds View High School this year. Though the Sheriff explained, deputies are currently invited on campus throughout the school day to keep a uniformed presence. A FOX 9 crew observed a deputy in a marked squad outside the front entrance at dismissal on Thursday.
Fletcher’s solution is to repeal the law, or at the very least wait a year for implementation, giving the Legislature some further time to reconsider the implications of the new use-of-force language.
"There are many, many situations where we wouldn't be able to use prone restraint, and we'd be wrestling around with a subject in the hall, trying to, trying to control them. It's just totally impractical," concluded Fletcher. "No one wants to hurt a child, but we also want to bring the situation under control as soon as possible."