Minnesota Democrats are trying, and in some cases failing, to convince police officers to return to public schools after a law they passed caused 40 law enforcement agencies to remove their officers from schools, according to the Star Tribune.
Revisions to an existing law led 40 agencies to suspend their student resource officer programs over concerns that they would not be allowed to physically intervene unless a violent altercation was already taking place, leading to confusion regarding how to handle vandals and trespassers, the Star Tribune reported. While the meaning of the law has been clarified by the state’s attorney general, some agencies have yet to bring back their officers.
“SROs also face increased risk of civil and criminal liability because of the uncertainty in the law,” legal counsel for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said of the legislation.
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The issue identified by law enforcement officials hinges on updated language in a law that they say would only allow officers to restrain students “to prevent imminent bodily harm or death to the student or to another,” according to the Star Tribune.
Activists and Democratic state legislators argued that the change in the law was necessary to improve student safety, according to the Star Tribune. The law has led to a reduced police presence on campuses as student feelings of safety are dropping amid stabbings and other violence at Minnesota schools, KARE11 reports.
Democratic Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who supported a measure to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, attempted to assuage the concerns of officers on Sept. 20, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Ellison claimed that the law only prevented officers from using certain restraining techniques on students, the Star Tribune reported.
But Republican Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said “another opinion just demonstrates the need for legislative action to fix this law” and that “student resource officers all deserve a crystal-clear law that everyone can understand without needing further clarification,” according to Minnesota Public Radio.
It remains unclear if departments will redeploy officers in light of Ellison’s comments.
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Brooklyn Park Police has explicitly declined to bring back student resource officers, saying the lack of case law under the new legislation makes doing so legally risky, CBS News Minnesota reported. Another department, Eagan Police, has also not decided to bring officers back.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s office did not respond the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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