Update – In a July 24, 2020 e-mail from Salem City Manager Steve Powers to the Salem City Council, Salem PD Chief Jerry Moore, and City of Salem Strategic Initiatives Manager Courtney Knox Busch, Manager Powers indicated that Chief Moore wants to “pause” the Salem PD’s role in the Salem-Keizer Schools SRO program (screenshot below):
*** The information below was posted prior to July 24, 2020 and is preserved in its original form ***
The Salem-Keizer School District is the second-largest school district in Oregon, serving over 42,000 students in 65 schools. The District has a Student Resource Officer (SRO) program which involves police officers being embedded in schools for ongoing investigation purposes (among other things), with Salem schools housing officers from Salem PD and Keizer schools housing officers from Keizer PD.
The program is very controversial and is often pointed to by students, parents, and members of the Salem community as being counterproductive, discriminatory, ineffective, and a waste of limited District resources. Transform Salem 100% endorses the demand by Latinos Unidos Siempre for police-free Salem (and Keizer) schools, details of which can be found in the following petition (please sign and share it):
The creators of this website recently obtained various documents pertaining to the SRO program as it relates to Salem PD, including the Intergovernmental Agreement between Salem PD and the District for the 2018-2019 school year, arrest data, and e-mails between Salem PD (Deputy Chief George Burke) and members of the Salem City Council (and Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett) regarding the SRO program. Below are noteworthy items from those documents:
Cost of the SRO Program
Salem schools have their own contract (Salem PD), and Keizer schools have their own contract (Keizer PD). Payment is split 50/50 between the School District and a COPS grant (federal), per the 2018-2019 Intergovernmental Agreement.
The cost to the District from Salem PD is $570,268 for a 9.5 month period (this does not include overtime and does not include Keizer PD’s contract). The 2018-2019 Intergovernmental Agreement lists 9 officers total, 1 of which is a corporal, and 1 of which is a Sergeant. Some materials obtained by the creators of this website states that there are 11 SROs, and that number was also included in media articles. It is unclear why there’s the discrepancy, however, the 2018-2019 Intergovernmental Agreement clearly lists 9 officers total (‘Exhibit B’ in the agreement, see screenshot below):
It is unclear what happened to payment arrangements when Salem schools shut down last year, and thus SROs were not needed (did the District still have to pay the full amount of the contract?). It is also unclear what will happen from a contract and payment standpoint if/when schools are only open part-time in this upcoming school year. If the school year ends up being entirely online, then obviously the SRO program will not be needed.
Arrests and Investigations
Based on the documents obtained by the creators of this website, it appears that most of the arrests performed by SROs in Salem schools involve matters that Salem PD would be investigating regardless of whether or not the SRO program existed. For example:
“The overwhelming number of arrests on this spreadsheet are for warrants or have been mandated by the courts or a probation officer to make those arrests.” – Deputy Chief George Burke in an email to city leaders on 06/15/20 (screenshot below, blue highlight added for emphasis):
From October 2018 through March 2020, 204 ‘DHS Cross Reports’ were assigned and investigated (child abuse investigations), in addition to what was reported by schools, per Salem PD Deputy Chief George Burke in an email to Salem city leaders (screenshot below):
This is another example of matters that Salem PD would be investigating regardless of whether or not the SRO program existed.
Arrest data provided by Deputy Chief George Burke in an email to city leaders on 06/15/20 seems incomplete (warrants at Judson are not included) and the narrative provided is incorrect when compared to the arrest data (says “There was one middle school, Straub Middle School, which had no incidents reported during this 2 year time period” despite Waldo and Crossler showing zero arrests as well).
Below is a screenshot of the narrative provided by Salem PD to the Salem City Council and Mayor, followed by a screenshot of the arrest data:
Below are other noteworthy items found in the documents acquired by the creators of this website pertaining to SRO arrests and investigations:
- SROs investigate and make arrests for incidents that don’t even happen on campus. SROs are also allowed to make home visits.
- SRO’s are supposed to “report any violation of school rules or policies to school administrations” yet are not to “be the individual responsible for the disciplinary consequences of school rules and policies.”
- SROs are not required to notify parents or school staff of investigations, and staff can only be present during questioning at the consent of the SRO or other investigating officers. Other law enforcement officials may get involved as the SROs see fit.
- Not all SROs have completed Critical Incident Training, per Deputy Chief George Burke in an email to city leaders on 06/15/20.
Program and Officer Accountability
Below are noteworthy excerpts (and in some cases additional commentary) from the documents referenced on this page pertaining to program and officer accountability, as well as items that were not contained in the documents yet are important for the community to know:
- SROs are supposed to meet with campus administrators once a month, and SROs report to “the chain of command within their agency” per contract.
- SROs are supposed to make referrals to resources that offer assistance to youth and their families – how often does that happen? If so, when, and to what specific resources?
- How is the discipline of SROs specifically handled, and how often has it happened? The contract states that the School District can ask for an SRO to be removed, however, it’s unclear what happens after that, as well as how often it has happened.
- The School District shall evaluate the SRO Program annually using a process agreed upon in writing by both the District and the City – where is that process documented, and what does it say?
- How are SROs selected, and how is it determined which school they are stationed at?
What Does SRO Removal Look Like?
The only valid argument that school administrators seem to have offered up in defense of the SRO Program is that the SRO Program speeds up the response time from Salem PD when there is an issue. This could easily be continued by simply requiring Salem PD to prioritize responses to schools, which they should be doing anyway given that, after all, these are school children that we are talking about.
Salem PD should not have to have highly-paid officers strategically placed within schools in order to give dangerous school-related matters the proper attention that they deserve. Salem PD’s budget is literally over 1/3rd of the City of Salem’s General Fund, and they should be able to easily make do with the bloated budget that they are afforded as it pertains to school-related matters, and in the process of making do without additional funds, free up much-needed school funds to go to programs that are more effective and less harmful than the SRO program.
SROs should be removed, and either the program entirely abandoned, or replaced with counselors and mediators that are better suited to deal with school matters in a manner that does not result in the reported harassment, intimidation, and menacing of Students of Color in Salem-Keizer schools. Even if students are not arrested, it can still be very intimidating and traumatic for students to have uniformed officers watching over them at all times, even when they are doing nothing wrong.
Below is a video, courtesy of Salem Reporter, that includes a student in the Salem-Keizer School District explaining why Latinos Unidos Siempre, an organization serving Latinx youth, is seeking the removal of police from Salem-Keizer schools: