Law enforcement responds to BEC pulling SROs
MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - After state lawmakers passed legislation putting restrictions on the tactics that School Resource Officers, or SROs, and other district employees can use in restraining students, the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office announced that it has suspended its SRO contracts with the St. Clair and Lake Crystal schools.
That means that until further notice, neither school has officers on campus, and Sheriff Jeff Wersal says that it was a decision that he didn’t want to make.
“It was not an easy decision at all. I struggled with it but ultimately I made the decision to pull the Lake Crystal officer and the Blue Earth County deputy out of the school after I learned about the new law that was in the education bill,” said Wersal.
In a public letter, Wersal claimed that the restrictions prohibit officers from using reasonable force in stopping violent situations.
Inside the schools, districts have had to adapt to not having officers on campus.
Schools now have to call an officer in if there is an incident, and the called officer is not restricted by the legislation, as they are not officially affiliated with the district.
The Lake Crystal School District says that not having an SRO contract will save the district roughly $30-thousand, but that they believe that the savings aren’t worth the risk.
“This is saving the district 30-thousand dollars but making us less safe in a time when the state has a multi-billion dollar surplus. We’re not in the business of saving money on safety,” said Mark Westerburg.
The district also says that they would like to make their own decisions about what a school resource officer can and can’t do on campus.
“This is an issue of local control. If the officers aren’t performing their duties in a fashion that were acceptable for us, we’re going to deal with it way before a legislation will,” said Westerburg.
Sheriff Wersal says that the program will be resumed should a special session be called to revise and clarify the bill, which Governor Tim Walz currently has no plans to do.
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