The 'COPS' Program -
Janet Reno In Every
US School?

Janet Reno in every US school: About the COPS program?
"...this program runs the real risk of creating a federalized police force that operates within our local police departments - and in our schools - but has its economic and psychological allegiances elsewhere."
Moving to smaller community has inspired me to take a close look at what is going on at the micro level in this country. Here's something I came across recently that I wrote up for local use, but should also be of interest to anybody who wants to keep track of the latest tricks of the tyrant's trade. This slick program is currently being sold to our school boards nationwide. I encourage you to fight it when it comes to your town.
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Sheriff's Deputies In Our Schools - Well Intentioned But A Very Bad Idea
Currently, there is a proposal circulating among school boards to station an armed, uniformed Sheriff's Deputy in every Northern Dutchess County school on a full time basis. While I have no doubt that the supporters of this proposal are well intentioned, many people who hear about this have expressed dismay at this idea. I believe these people, parents, teachers, and students should be listened to carefully for the following reasons:
1. The proposal marks a radical departure from over 200 years of American history 2. The program is not needed 3. The program was not asked for by local people 4. The origins of the program have not been presented forthrightly 5. The stated purposes of the program are vague and contradictory
Supposedly, we want our children to master history, civics, logic, and science. As adults, let's use these disciplines to analyze this "gift" that outsiders are so eager for us to accept into our community-managed schools.
First: For over 200 years of American history there has been a separation of church and state. This separation is the basis of our religious freedom. Our founding fathers were also equally clear about the need for eternal vigilance in the matter of protecting civil society (us) from the potential abuses of government, of which law enforcement is a part. I don't know if studying the Bill of Rights is popular in our public schools any more, but several of the amendments specifically address this point. To invite law enforcement to become a permanent, full time fixture in our schools is a radical step, one that I believe past generations would have rightfully scorned and one that we ourselves would be skeptical of if we were to see it in countries like China or Iraq.
Second: The program is not needed. As we'll see later, the function of these officers, called School Resource Officers (SRO), has been very poorly defined. Yes, there are some extremely out-of-control schools in urban areas which, sadly for all concerned, require a police presence, but note: officers are sent to these schools with a very clearly stated law enforcement mission: to patrol, to investigate, to apprehend, and to process criminals.
Interestingly, the honest advocates of the SRO program, such as the one proposed for Dutchess County, make no claims that these programs improve school safety. This is indeed a most bizarre situation. On the one hand, law enforcement officers are being sent to set up camp in our schools, but on the other hand, no one is promising improved security. They are promising other benefits which we will look at in detail a little later.
Third: This radical program was not asked for by teachers, students, administrators or parents. It is being proposed and promoted by outside forces that do not have their roots in our community. This alone should set alarm bells ringing.
Fourth: Most troubling to me personally is the fact that the origins of this program have not been presented forthrightly. To date, when asked about the source of funding, advocates have incorrectly stated such things as "this is a continuation of the DARE program" and "this is a program of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office." Both these assertions are patently false and the beg the question: why aren't advocates of the SRO movement disclosing the facts? The truth is that this is a federally funded program administered by the Depart of Justice. In other words, not only is this program not a response to local requests, it is a top down creation formulated by the Clinton Administration and Attorney General Janet Reno.
Who cares, you say? Consider this: Deputies who are part of this program will be paid by the Sheriff's Department and will be nominally under his command, but the cash in their paychecks will be coming from the Justice Department which also funds the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, two federal law enforcement agencies.
And not only do school resource officers' paychecks come from Washington, so does their training and funding for their state level associations. And, note this well: the funds to promote the program and sell it to school board members are also part of the Justice Department budget. These promotional efforts include paid trips to training facilities where board members are "educated" as to the virtues of the program. I understand that part of the training they receive is how to "sell" the program to their communities and handle the "emotion based" objections of the community. The Justice Department has also funded "scientific" studies which "prove" that the program is great and has nothing but wonderful benefits for us all. The nature and funding of these studies needs to be fully disclosed before they can be presented as evidence to the public.
There's one last piece to this that should give everyone pause. These federally funded school officers, by definition, will not be doing normal police work and therefore in time will have more in common with school resource officers in other parts of the state and country than their own fellow officers. In short, this program runs the real risk of creating a federalized police force that operates within our local police departments - and in our schools - but has its economic and psychological allegiances elsewhere. Again, I have to ask the question: why is it that at every public presentation on this subject I've been to, this federal connection is not disclosed. The answer I think is clear: because the program's structure is unacceptable according to the well established principles of our democracy.
Fifth: The stated purpose of the program is vague and contradictory. Some of the functions suggested for Dutchess Sheriff's deputies include: helping students get driver's permits, teaching them the history of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department, and improving the image of the department among the public
With all due respect, the best way for the Sheriff's Department to improve its image is to continue doing what it is doing now, performing an exemplary job of protecting and serving the public. Certainly, from time to time, representatives from the Sheriff's Department should be welcome guests in our schools and talks to students now and then would be an entirely reasonable way to educate young people about the role of law enforcement in our society, But a full time, armed presence? For what purpose?
The truth emerges when one reads the literature of NASRO, the National Association of School Resource Officers who work with the Justice Department to promote the program:
"... The School Resource Officers promote a better understanding of our laws, why they were enacted and their benefits. They provide a visible and positive image for law enforcement. They serve as a confidential source of counseling to students concerning problems they face. They bring expertise into schools that will help young people make more positive choices in their lives. They also work to protect the school environment and to maintain an atmosphere where teachers feel safe to teach and students feel safe enough to learn."
If there are any law enforcement professionals out there who truly want "to serve as a confidential source of counseling" or "help young people make more positive choices in their lives" as a profession, may I respectfully suggest that they go back to school for the appropriate degrees that our teachers and guidance counselors must earn before they are entrusted with these functions. How can a law enforcement officer provide "confidential counseling?" to young people without a degree or licensing? Is it even advisable for one person to both enforce the law and offer "confidential counseling?"
Teachers, parents, school administrators, and school board members should be very clear about what they are giving up when they accept this program. Remember: 1) the officer will not be under the command of school officials and 2) he will be obligated, first and foremost, to enforce the law as defined by his superiors. Imagine the long term consequences of formalizing such an arrangement.
There are many things which happen in schools which are, technically, violations of the law. These would include fighting and possession of various items that children are prohibited from possessing. In extreme cases, school administrators can and do have the good sense to call in law enforcement, but we have in place a centuries old tradition in the western world of dealing with our children's transgressions informally.
Bring in a full time police presence and we risk seeing things like schoolyard fist fights resulting in assault and battery arrests and possession of dirty pictures resulting in pornography distribution charges. These types of transgressions are best dealt with by parents, teachers, counselors and administrators. Are we really willing to give up this humane and common sense system for one that is funded and administered by federal law enforcement officials in Washington DC? California which takes a hyper-aggressive approach to these matter now has over 100,000 children behind bars in spite of a juvenile crime rate which has dropped steadily since 1993.
Concerning NASRO's other aims, I believe that attorneys and legislators, not to mention teachers themselves, could do an equally good job explaining our laws to our children. As for creating an environment that is "safe enough to learn," this is hardly a problem in Northern Dutchess. For those who would raise Columbine, they need to face the fact that like train wrecks or plane crashes, the random acts of madmen are the very rare exception to the norm and no amount of policing can stop them. Hundreds of local police, many with SWAT training, were deployed to that school during the shootings and all they were able to do was wait outside until the shooters killed themselvs.
In short, the "free" school resource officer's program being offered to school boards by the Justice Department is an unthinking bureaucrat's dream which down the line could some day could become an institutionalized civil liberties nightmare. My recommendations:
1. If schools really need better security, local taxpayers should hire local people with local community values to provide it. I will be the first to open my wallet if such a need is proven. 2. If schools need positive role models, we should ask why such models are not available to them already in the form of our education professionals. I think they already are. 3. If schools need more counselors, school boards should come before the public, state the case, and ask that this need be funded. 4. If the community want an opportunity for police and youth to interact in an informal, friendly way, then programs like the NYPD's Police Athletic League would serve as a rational model for such aspirations.
What is not a good idea is bringing in full time armed, uniformed officers into our schools who are paid, trained, and supervised by forces we cannot control to provide an implausible mix of security, counseling, and social training services as part of a deceptively packaged and promoted program.
Common sense and self reliance built this country and remain our most precious assets. Let's exercise them, not only in this instance, but every chance we get. I say yes to supporting our kids and our Sheriff's Department. I say NO to this particular program.
Ken McCarthy is the president of Amacord, an Internet publishing company in Dutchess County, New York. Four generations of his family have served in law enforcement in New York State. He has taught grammar school and high school kids as well as college and graduate students at MIT, Columbia, Princeton, and NYU.
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