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Committee wants more study of La Crosse school officer program

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There are calls for more study of the SRO program, which puts police officers in La Crosse schools. 

A subcommittee reports to the county criminal justice management council that the idea of having officers on school property needs to be examined. 

Panel member Jason Witt says that’s especially true because of increased criticism of police in the U.S.

“The heightened desire we have and feel from our community members to make sure that our justice practices are equitable and getting a desired result (suggests) that this really is an appropriate time for communities to be examining their SRO programs,” said Witt.    

The report did not recommend whether the program should be ended or not in the school district.  But it did refer to national studies saying minority and disabled students are more likely to be arrested than white youths.                             

The La Crosse district recently suspended its agreement with police to continue the SRO program after June, following reports that former criminal justice council citizen member Joella Striebel was harassed online by a police union.  Speakers at the justice council meeting called for the creation of a citizen oversight board to monitor area police.    

The report cites national studies showing juvenile crime has gone down in America, but arrests of students at schools have gone up. 

Officer Cordero Gilliam has been the SRO at La Crosse Central this year, one of five in the La Crosse district, and he defends the program.

“We know as school resource officers how pertinent our role is in being that liaison between the school community and law enforcement itself,” Gilliam told the council. “These are one of those integral times that we can have positive contacts with the youth, especially inside of school, and show them that law enforcement is not bad.”   

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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