By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) The project coordinator for the Denver Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety said Thursday he does not agree with the decision to put armed school resource officers back into Denver schools.
Dr. Robert Davis said Black and Brown children without fail end up being “targeted, expended, expelled, (and) ticketed” by school resource officers. Davis made his remarks during a meeting of the task force. According to the task force Facebook page, the online meeting was intended to facilitate “a discussion around developing a community-centered response, with well thought out recommendations, to the perceived rise in youth violence.”
Denver School Board President Xochitl "Sochi" Gaytan attended the virtual discussion. When Davis asked her how long SRO officers would be back on the job, she said temporarily, only until the end of the school year. She said the board has directed the superintendent to engage the community in a discussion surrounding school safety between now and then.
Youth violence has again been thrust into the consciousness of Denverites after a student-involved shooting at East High School earlier this month. A student also was shot in his car outside the school a couple of weeks prior.
Youth violence statistics explained
Davis made a point to share statistics he received from public defenders in Denver. He said youth violence actually is down when compared to the start of the pandemic, but compared to last year it is up. He noted the narrative in the news media has been that youth violence is on the rise exponentially and there’s a need to bring police officers back into the schools.
“Ultimately we want to influence legislation and local policies that impact the services our youth receive and how their safety is provided for,” the Task Force posted on its Facebook page.
On its website, the Task Force calls itself “the nation’s largest community-led task force developing community based solutions around policing and public safety. The Task Force has released a comprehensive set of 112 recommendations addressing five strategies to create a community-centered public safety model.”
Task Force born of George Floyd response
The Task Force sprung out of demands from the community for police reforms after the death of George Floyd.
Several people called in to comment during the Zoom meeting of the Task Force on Wednesday. One caller who did not identify himself said he believes many youths do not like guns and would be interested in getting rid of them. But he said he does not believe they trust the police. “We can’t look to politicians for leadership. We need to look to each other and look to the youth.”
“How do we improve school safety without increasing armed law enforcement presence?” Davis said is the pickle facing the Task Force. He said the Task Force will create a sub-committee that will look specifically at school violence and recommend solutions. “Who are the community parties that we need to bring to the table? Who are the current or former educators to have at the table? How do task force recommendations translate specifically to youth safety?”
Dianne Cooks of Families Against Violent Acts said metal detectors need to be placed in Denver schools, not school resource officers. She said nobody wants students to feel like they are in a prison “but we’ve got to do what we’ve go to do to protect these kids.”
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