Beloit should keep police officers in the schools.
Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski says it would be “extremely foolish” to eliminate school resource officers, which is the term applied to police stationed in schools.
Growing debate over the presence of officers in schools is linked to tensions following the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police. Perhaps it’s natural when emotions are running high—for good reason—to lash out in all directions and question how everything is being done. Still, each community is different and each situation is different, and any kind of rush to judgement could be a mistake.
Over the years, as most readers are aware, the Beloit Daily News has done extensive research and reporting on conditions in the local school system. Among many other things, deep discipline issues have been documented, a factor resulting in serious complaints from the public and morale problems with staff. Seldom, however, did the school-based officers become the focus of dissent.
Zibolski argues the school-based officers are important for building relationships with students and the community, and for promoting stability and preventing crimes. He also says the department uses the officers to help with recruiting a next generation of police.
We believe that what gets measured gets done, and that police effectiveness in the role routinely should be reviewed, like any other department or school function. In light of the racial reckoning taking place around the country, we also believe it’s right to review policing actions through a racial lens to make sure bias is never tolerated.
And we’re confident the chief would cooperate with any fair review.
One more point, and it’s perhaps most important. While some cities have been making knee-jerk responses to end police-school programs, that’s dangerously short-sighted in a country beset—pre-coronavirus—by deadly shootings on campuses. Have people forgotten the body count of children?
Having an armed police officer in a school building may not prevent some nut job from attacking, but it will guarantee a faster response. For that reason alone we respect the need for school-based officers. In fact, we’d like to have more.
Maybe this fall, or some time in the near future, parents once again will be trusting the schools with their kids. Better to have an armed officer there and not be needed, than to be needed and not be there.