BELOIT — Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski said he hasn’t changed his views on the School Resource Officer program in the School District of Beloit despite calls to eliminate the programs in other cities.
“It’s more important than ever before. As far as the Beloit program, it would be extremely foolish to eliminate it,” Zibolski said. “Our program in Beloit has been run very well. The feedback from the school district is positive as well.”
School districts in Milwaukee, Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere have decided to end contracts with local police departments for School Resource Officers (SROs). The actions follow the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died in police custody.
Zibolski and Sgt. Jamie Linder, who oversees the SROs covering the intermediate schools and high school, gave an overview of the program to representatives of the Beloit NAACP, the League of Women Voters and others in a Zoom meeting on Monday afternoon.
Linder said the SROs are trained through the National Association of School Resource Officers.
The relationship building they do with students, Zibolski said, not only helps students emotionally, but can help prevent crime and promote police recruitment opportunities in the future.
Zibolski said a year ago there was a lot of support for mandating officers in schools because of active shooter situations which have occurred at schools around the country.
Zibolski stressed the majority of contact SROs have with students are not enforcement related.
“They usually refer incidents back to the school, or are interviewing students as witnesses or victims to a crime,” Zibolski said.
Linder added that many contacts SROs have include playing with students at recess, or eating lunch with them.
In the 2019-2020 school year there were a total of 872 SRO official contacts. Of those, there were 477 incidents, or 55%, which were referred back to school security/administration; 272, or 31% were victim or witness interviews; 65 or 7.4% were a state arrest; and 58, or 6.6%, were a municipal citation.
Zibolski said having an SRO allows for immediate law enforcement response when needed. If SROs weren’t in the schools, police would still get calls and an officer who may not have the same level of training as an SRO would respond.