Casper Council Considers More Officers in Schools After Uvalde
At the Casper City Council meeting on Tuesday, the council talked about a proposal to increase the amount of school resource officers (SROs) in elementary and middle schools in the Natrona County School District (NCSD).
Currently, there are five SROs and one supervisor throughout the district, and a proposal from the city manager's office would increase it to seven SROs.
The council would decide whether to pay for 25% of the cost to have the two officers in schools, while the NCSD would pay for the other 75%.
Several council members, such as Bruce Knell and Shawn Johnson, were completely in favor of increasing the amount of SROs.
Knell said he wants to make sure that the council signs a contract that lasts at least four years with the NCSD so the city doesn't end up paying for the two extra officers for only a year or two.
However, Kyle Gamroth and Jai-Ayala Sutherland were more apprehensive, as Sutherland said that she believes the answer to the problem of school shootings doesn't lie in increasing the police presence in schools.
"It seems like maybe it's the easiest 'right step' to keep our kids safe, but we saw what happened in Texas, and I'm not convinced two SROs are going to provide a meaningful safety net we need," Sutherland said. "I think we're all aware that prevention is a really important step, and that's not the question before us today. But if the school district is looking to put resources to invest in our children, I don't want to say using our resources to cover that time 25% is the right solution, it might not be. I'm really on the fence of this, I just want to protect our kids, and I want to do it in an evidence-based manner, and I want to really think through it before I consider it."
Gamroth said that after what happened at Uvalde, he isn't sure that a school resource officer would do much to stop a school shooting at all.
In response, Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said the recent gun bill signed by Congress would help to address mental health issues, so the city should work at the same time by increasing the number of SROs.
McPheeters said that in the SRO program, officers undergo training in how to handle various situations that they may experience in schools, along with how to best get to know the students.
If two SROs are added to NCSD schools, Casper Police would have to hire two new officers to replace the old ones that are working as SROs.
McPheeters said that they currently have nine openings in the police department, and wasn't sure if they would be able to fill the SRO vacancy.
At the end of the discussion, the council asked Carter Napier, the city manager, to come back with more information at a future meeting before they make a decision on whether or not to increase the number of SROs.