WAUWATOSA, Wis. — The Wauwatosa School District is looking to finalize an agreement with Wauwatosa Police for four school resource officers.
The district has had an agreement with police for more than a decade to have those officers, but for the first time they are putting that agreement in writing and expanding on what they expect from police.
“I think in regards to the school resource officers themselves, we will be able to collect data and find out how many times there is actual contacts being made with the students. And for the public, they will know there is true work being done in our schools to make them safe,” said Demond Means, superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District.
It is becoming less common to have school resource officers. The largest district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, did away with officers in the school in 2016. They ended all contracts with Milwaukee Police in 2020.
University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ion Meyn, who studies and teaches policing, says districts moved away from police in school because students of color were more likely to be arrested instead of disciplined.
“We have three and a half times the rate of black and brown students being arrested then we do white students. In fact, if you look at other kind of instances of disparities, it is [on par with] disability. Students who have underlying mental health disabilities are arrested between 3 to 10 times, depending on the state, higher than kids without disabilities,” said Meyn.
Right now, the Wisconsin Assembly is considering two bills that could require school resource officers. The first bill, Assembly Bill 53, requires private and public high schools to report instances of crimes at schools or on buses. The second bill, Assembly Bill 69, says if a school has more than 100 incidents in a semester than the school would be required to have an armed school resource officer. Milwaukee Police Association President Andy Wagner says he wants both bills passed.
"I think it is an immediate resource. They can work with school security to identify kids that may be a problem in the school. That includes kids that may be selling drugs or having weapons inside the school. And it's an immediate thing that the police can take care of,” said Wagner.
But a major concern among MPS parents when they removed the police contract was discipline. However, Wauwatosa’s superintendent says some things go beyond school punishment.
"Schools are a public place. It is a place where the vast majority of our students come to teach and learn...When you are breaking the law, there should be consequences. It is my job as superintendent to make sure our schools are safe,” said Means.