I wanted to take the time to account for the past week's activities by your elected General Assembly.
HB 670- police reform and accountability act of 2021
One of the amendments offered on this bill was an amendment designed to ban School Resource officers' (SROs) presencefrom schools. The author of the amendment argues that SROs somehow contribute to the "school to prison pipeline", by unfairly targeting and arresting children of color, disability, and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, he did not have the data to support this claim. He did not even know any pertinent data regarding the number of children arrested by SROs and for what offenses.
Luckily, I do have that information for the 2018/2019 school year, which is the last years students were in school:
- Total student population- 894 K
- Total number of students arrested by SRO-2,628
- Total number of minority students arrested by SRO- 1,766
Of the arrests:
- 732 arrested for a physical altercation
- 25 arrested for sexual assault
- 20 arrested for sexual harassment
- 11 arrested for possessing a gun on school property
- 222 arrests for other weapons on school property
When did I ask the author of the amendment if the SRO is not there, who stops those assaults? Who gets those guns and other weapons out of the schools? He answered that we needed to "reimagine" school security. As a parent of a child in school, I don't need to reimagine school security. We have a program and a partnership that works. We have dedicated officers who are committed to the safety of our children.
This amendment failed, but the author of the amendment has a bill that does the same, and there are a couple of other similar bills as well. I opposed the amendment and will oppose those bills as well.
Video to the portion of the debate can be viewed here: https://fb.watch/4gk8GFMdAU/
One significant provision of HB 670, the police reform bill, is an inclusion of an Administrative Charging Committee for each county. The committee's duties are to review the findings of a law enforcement agency's investigation, make determinations in the charging of an officer accused of wrongdoing, and recommend disciplinary action.
The bill outlines who can be appointed members of this charging committee, and it stipulates that one member be a "resident" of the county in which the board has jurisdiction. This is recklessly broad.
I offered an amendment to change that to mean an individual who is a legal citizen of the country, who also has not been charged or sentenced for any offense that is subject to more than 90 days in jail.
I believe that citizens do have a right to a seat at the table for police accountability boards like this. I think it is equally important that they be legal citizens and be the most unbiased an individual. We can ensure if they are to be active participants in charging and disciplining officers.
Our police officers, while not all perfect, do an difficult job. Police officers who willfully or maliciously interfere with an individual's civil rights should be charged and disciplined or removed from the force if the case warrants. However, all people, including police officers, are afforded fairness and justice under the law. My amendment was a reasonable amendment that helped ensure this. Unfortunately, it was ultimately voted down.