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SRO program in La Crosse schools still meets opposition, despite extension

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School District of La Crosse and city police recently renewed the school resource officer program for another year. 

Several people speaking out during the city’s Judiciary and Administration Committee meeting Tuesday evening, however, think the renewal was a mistake and are urging the city to end the SRO program. 

The council judiciary committee being asked to accept a new agreement on SROs was told by residents that students don’t trust the police, and police don’t trust students, so the program should end. 

Cameron was one of those speakers, who says the schools don’t trust the students either.

“Many arguments in favor of slowly phasing out the program really serve to disguise a deeply ingrained mistrust the schools have of their own students, particularly an anti-black mistrust,” Cameron said.    

Defenders of the agreement, include Mayor Mitch Reynolds and La Crosse Schools superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engel. Reynolds argued that the deal has already been in effect for weeks and trying to change it, just before a new school year, might cause problems.

“I think it would be hubris for us to suggest that we know how to take care of the students of the city of La Crosse better than the School District of La Crosse,” Reynolds said. “And I would prefer that we not get into that game. You heard, Dr. Engel, say that he approves.”

Council member Doug Happel, a former La Crosse school administrator, who is the chairman of the city’s Police and Fire Commission, was surprised by the resistance to the memorandum of understanding, also called an MOU.

“The city has memorandums of understanding coming out the gazoo, with various companies and so forth, that do not have personnel and budgetary impacts,” Happel said, noting that the SRO program does affect police spending and personnel.

Happel voted in favor of the MOA. Mackenzie Mindel and Jennifer Trost were the two committee members to vote against.

“I feel like we have spent the last many months listening to students and the youth of our community,” Mindel said, “and while we aren’t the School District of La Crosse, I do just want to recognize that these students are citizens of our community. Our job is to listen to the citizens of the community, and I’m not sure that I personally feel that we have.”

There were five opposition letters and five others who spoke against the SRO program. One resident spoke in favor.

A request to delay the matter to allow more study of the agreement was defeated in committee.

       

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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