School resource officer Rebecca Carrado of the Frederick Police Department views the students she serves as a family.

“I tell everybody I have 618 kids,” Sgt. Carrado said, laughing. “We’re there solely to ensure the child’s success.”

Carrado is assigned to Lincoln Elementary School and the SUCCESS Program at Frederick County Public Schools. She leads the SROs within FPD’s outreach unit, which includes six officers for FCPS.

Carrado and her colleagues see their roles as mentors and educators.

“We want to teach our kids, if they need help and they see the uniform, to go to the uniform,” she said.

But not everyone sees it that way. Some Frederick community activists and school board members have pointed out that some students of color feel uncomfortable by the presence of police officers due to the high-profile instances of racial injustice across the country, most notably the killing of George Floyd.

“If you are a student of color whose parents have been detained by ICE, if you are a student of color whose parents have been pulled over while driving for being Black, you have a completely different perspective on what an armed uniformed officer means,” said Jackie Brinkman, one of the head organizers of End Racism FCPS, a group of FCPS students and alumni that supports racial equity in the school system.

Members of the group say they want the SRO program to be disbanded.

“It’s just a different definition. It’s a different lens of existence, and it’s a different reality,” Brinkman said of students of colors’ view of SROs.

Her organization says students of color have been negatively impacted by the SRO program, something with which Frederick County Board of Education President Jay Mason agrees.

Mason said one of the top priorities of the current board is to make sure all students feel comfortable and empowered in schools. Mason doesn’t support disbanding the SRO program in its entirety, but he does back some reforms that he believes would make students of color feel more at ease.

In December, the local SRO program came under fire at a school board meeting, eliciting a strong rebuttal from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

In Annapolis, legislators have put forward bills in the House and Senate that, if passed, would drastically change SRO programs across the state. House Bill 496 seeks to eliminate SROs in favor of more counselors, psychologists and social workers, while Senate Bill 245 includes proposals that would limit SRO access to school buildings and require them to wear plain clothes instead of a uniform.

Both bills had hearings in their respective committees weeks ago, but neither have come to a final vote.

While some want to see officers in plain clothes, Carrado sees the uniform as a way to connect with students. She said she shows them her equipment and even lets them try on gear.

“This uniform obviously symbolizes law enforcement, and we want them to be comfortable with law enforcement, and if I’m not in a uniform then that doesn’t happen,” she said.

Carrado believes students benefit from seeing a consistent face in police garb. She suspects students would be less likely to trust random officers who stopped by to check on school buildings.

Each school has its own “language,” Carrado said. At her school, staff may ask a student what “level” they are at. The number they reply with tells Carrado whether that student needs a minute to decompress and calm down.

School resource officers who spoke with the News-Post recognize there is a place for mental health resources in schools. A few said they aren’t opposed to those added resources, but officers don’t want to be kicked out of buildings either.

“We’re all for more mental health services,” said Lt. Jason Deater, who leads the SRO program for Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which has 14 SROs.

“I think there’s a misconception the police officer is being proactive looking for the criminal element, looking for the trouble,” he said. “We’re not targeting or going after students.”

Deater said he’s not at odds with more school counselors, psychologists or social workers, but it’s not as if deputies aren’t trained to handle mental health situations. They often respond to such calls outside of the school system.

Similarly, Officer First Class Darrick Scott of the Brunswick Police Department described mental health professionals as allies in their shared mission to protect children.

“I think we can work together as a team,” he said.

Scott, who is Brunswick’s sole SRO, is leery of legislation that would make it so officers would only respond to schools when called. He thinks of the shootings that have plagued schools across America over the years.

“I think it’s very important for SROs to be inside [the schools],” he said, adding if he’s inside, he can protect students.

Scott is not opposed to SROs wearing a “softer” looking uniform, but he doesn’t think the uniform is a major issue. How an officer interacts with students is what matters, he said.

“We are more than SROs,” Scott said. “We are the coach. We are, sometimes, the father figure.”

The school board’s Mason thinks there are ways in which schools can still be kept safe while also putting some students at ease. He specifically cited having SROs in plain clothes or having them stationed outside the school building — similar to what is laid out in Senate Bill 245.

“I think we have many societal problems that contribute to this SRO conversation — one of them being that, historically, police have over-policed our Black and brown communities,” he said.

But, more than reforms to the current program, Mason wants to see a bigger focus on mental health. SROs are reactionary, he said, and the underlying causes of students’ issues need to be addressed first.

“I think we have to get to the root cause of the problems [students] have, and I’m not sure an SRO is able to do that, but our mental health providers can do that,” Mason said. “We have to understand ... what causes them harm to want to come to school to cause harm.”

Deater, the sheriff’s office SRO, acknowledged trust is key.

“For us to be effective, we have to have the trust of the community,” he said, “And they can be confident that we provide that level of service.”

Staff writer Steve Bohnel contributed to this report.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

(46) comments

phydeaux994

I’ll keep asking these questions so I can decide whether I believe SRO’s are giving us bang for our bucks..... what do the SRO's do on a typical day? How often are they called on to intervene in a confrontational situation? What do they do for most of the day when classes are in session? What is their role during changing of classes? Are kids disciplined the same for the same offense no matter what their race or Nationality is? All this information should be readily available. In other words, are they beneficial to all the kids and school personnel? I would think that if our schools are violent places we would be hearing about it. BTW, do private schools in FC have SRO's?

jth7100

Plus, what a soft job really.

shiftless88

I have a better idea. Since conservatives are all about having police where violence happens let's make every bar have an armed policeman walking around throughout the evening. Maybe just Friday and Saturday nights. Pay for it out of the alcohol tax.

KellyAlzan

We live in a society that is more ugly today than ever before. And I don’t mean appearance. School shootings are not a thing of the past.

If we’re going to rid the SRO’s, then o expect every single god d—- school to have metal detectors at every entry door.

I WANT SRO’s at my children’s school.

gabrielshorn2013

👍👍👍Kelly. SROs are the epitome of the community policing concept.

MrSniper

Communities keep their own peace. I’ve never had a positive outcome with an encounter with a police officer. Most of the time they come after events transpired & just collect data. This is 1 of the reasons why there exists a “stop snitching” mentality in the communities that authorities claim need policing the most.

gabrielshorn2013

One would have to ask why you have had not a good outcome with law enforcement mrsniper. The vast majority of mine have been positive.

Comment deleted.
phydeaux994

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2019/08/14/statistics-show-iq-disparities-between-races-heres-what-that-really-means/?sh=7656d14d4490

Awteam2021

I’m more inclined to use SRO officers against outside intruders. No one is opposed to school safety. But I do think we need to rethink SRO officers and their interactions with students.

One of the most important roles that should be held by the SRO is that of being a positive role model to students. Students often seek approval, direction and guidance by adult leaders that they trust.

Some ways for the SRO to be a more positive role model include: setting limits by being clear about what is acceptable and unacceptable but not adversarial; setting an example; being honest; being consistent with ‘ALL’ students, staff and parents; encouraging responsibility; showing respect for students; and directing children dealing with problems brought into schools to appropriate resources.

MD1756

SROs became popular and parents demanded them after a couple of school shootings. While there is little to nothing wrong with the concept of an SRO program, I suggest they are a waste of money.

Governments have limited budgets and already don't fully fund the infrastructure needs and other core governmental functions. We need to stop wasting limited public resources on programs with questionable benefits per dollar spent. For that reason, I have never been a fan of the SRO programs.

Take the money from the SRO programs and put it directly towards education. Has anyone seen a cost benefit analysis and comparison of spending dollars directly on education versus spending dollars on SROs?

As far as some examples provided, it used to be a parent would pick up a sick child at school. Now the parent can have Uber do that if they can't pick up their child. As far as changing a flat tire, it seems that while I was slow in joining the 21st century by getting a smart phone only back in September, most people (including children of driving age) have cell phones and if the child wasn't taught how to change a tire or is otherwise incapable of changing a tire, a simple call to AAA would suffice (if your child can't change a tire or perform other simple car related tasks you should have AAA or something similar such as the roadside insurance option with your car insurance since it is so cheap). No need for public dollars to change a student's flat tire when that student could have taken the bus instead.

For those who think we should keep SROs, what evidence do you have that they are worth the expense, especially since the politicians passed the Kirwan legislation without the means for fully funding it with the existing tax structure.

francesca_easa

Dear MD1756, the issues I spoke to were 14 and 12 years ago. I worked in DC and had no way to get home during the day to collect a sick child. Not sure if Uber existed then. The flat occurred at school and the officer was already there and provided aid-Fix a Flat-so my son could get to the tire store. I appreciate your perspective that yes perhaps resources could be better spent and education.

ma23464

Take a look at the picture. This officer does not look like an educator and a mentor. He looks like someone that’s ready to go into a war. If SRO’s want you be more effective they need to dress and act the part. Ditch the bullet proof vest. Look more like Andy Griffith.

MrSniper

It’s insane that people want to get kids in their own community into the criminal justice system so young. 99% of what is happening in schools today is exactly what was happening over 50 years ago. Fights, alcohol, drugs & petty theft. I’m sure if a case is serious enough, the police can respond within minutes. Stop & think of the unintended consequences. Criminalizing immature behavior that most all of us have engaged in is not the way to go.

Comment deleted.
threecents

We have equality of opportunity? Another person who did not take American History 201.

phydeaux994

I don't have kids in school so I don't get any first hand feedback on what the SRO's do on a typical day. How often are they called on to intervene in a confrontational situation? What do they do for most of the day when classes are in session? What is their role during changing of classes? Are kids disciplined the same for the same offense no matter what their race or Nationality is? All this information should be readily available. In other words, are they beneficial to all the kids and school personnel? I would think that if our schools are violent places we would be hearing about it. BTW, do private schools in FC have SRO's?

francesca_easa

Phydeaux, I can only share that the very likeable Black SRO at Middletown H.S. gave my son a ride home when he became sick during the school day. And 3 years later, when he was old enough to drive to school, helped him when he had a flat tire and no spare. Believe me, I was very grateful for his help.

bosco

Serve and protect in action [thumbup]

Awteam2021

“This is not about SROs being bad people,” I’m sure the far majority are great people, regardless of ‘color’. But do they really need to dress as armed prison guards? Maybe tone down the dress, a little more supportive and nurturing, as in your example. Someone you’re not intimidated by but feel safe are supportive.

It must be awful if you come from a dysfunctional home without proper parental guidance then have to attend an institution that treats you like a criminal.

phydeaux994

A likeable BLACK SRO f_e?? You felt the need to make that distinction?? Strange! That was very nice of him. Do all SRO’s do that as part of their job? I think it’s the fact that the SRO’s are Law Enforcement Officers, which can be intimidating to kids who have had negative experiences with them. Which goes back to the question, are minorities treated differently than White students? There should be records in the schools to answer that question.

francesca_easa

It was in response to commenters stating that minority students are punished more than white students. Not all SROs are White.

phydeaux994

The fact that the SRO in the picture is a POC would make that obvious I believe.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@everyone

NPOC means

Non

Person

of

Color

To refresh:

POC means

Person

of

Color

I found out that if I use the word (White) too many times in one post it tends to get the Mods/Readers Knickers in knots...so I came up with an acceptable way to refer a person that is (remember the W word above?)--NPOC

I obtained NMP's advice and came up with NPOC. See NMP stated he did not mind being referred to as a POC because that is what he is, a POC, typically black in varying shades...

Since NMP is a POC and is fine with being referred to as a POC I am going speak for other white people, because I am white, and say it's fine to be referred as a NPOC.

Have yet to hear 50 Shades of White for a movie title so.....

Awteam2021

Francesca, Not sure if this as much a white or black SRO issue as much as how students are perceived and how well the SROs are trained in handling disruptions. Racial bias of course plays a factor if you are not properly trained.

francesca_easa

Yea, I can see where you and Purple may have interpreted it differently. But irregardless, I would certainly support keeping him in a job vs putting him out to pasture.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@the mods

Why didn’t you just remove both my comments? The comment you left up doesn’t make sense without the other comment you took down to go along with it? So if one comment was okay why wasn’t the other one? Or if one comment was that bad you completely disappeared it, then why was the comment that went with it still up. A little consistency would be appreciated.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@Phy

did you notice they completely disappeared my comment again but left the other one up? To me, one doesn't make sense without the other....but my completely disappeared comment should have been up long enough for people to remember it so my 2nd comment will still make sense....if not let me know.

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed Francesca. "Officer Smothers" is a great guy, and well respected by the students at MHS. He knows all the kids, and interacts with them regularly. This is community policing at its best.

Comment deleted.
PurplePickles aka L&M

@Archie

Things have changed since you went off the air, the demographics have changed in your viewing audience. And I can see this new show of yours being canceled real soon.

Comment deleted.
DickD

It just might be the Asian culture that expects children to respect elders and study more, rather than basic intelligence.

Comment deleted.
bosco

a&a, as someone who has done police ride-alongs in LA and volunteered in public schools, I can tell you from experience that the old axiom is true "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree". Make of it what you will, but I have seen the die cast by the time some of these kids reach first grade. All that's missing is their orange jump suit.

For every delinquent, there are two parents who failed in their responsibility.

bosco

Pull them all out and let the teachers and principals deal with a violent, out of control teenager and see how that goes. Maybe send in a psychologist or two to deal with them. (sarcasm alert)

dabittle

In the first place, we wouldn't need Cops in schools if children were taught at home how to behave and school administrators had zero tolerance policies on certain behaviors to include violence and drugs. Secondly, to remove cops from schools simply because they make certain kids uncomfortable is insane. If those kids behave, the only interactions/experiences they'll have as it relates to these cops will be positive. I'm convinced school boards the world over are seeking to conscientiously and actively foster a whole generation of weak, frightened, uninformed, groupthink snowflakes.

TomWheatley

Add to that colleges over the last 20 years or more.

francesca_easa

Thank you Dabittle.

bosco

[thumbup] dabittle.

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup] Well put, dabittle! [smile]

DickD

I couldn't say it better, dabittle

shiftless88

dabittle; what do you think about my idea about posting armed police in all bars? I mean, if the adults behave the only interactions/experiences they'll have as it relates to these cops will be positive.

Piedmontgardener

Unfortunately we have a collateral damage movement in Annapolis. There's no question that law enforcement needs to be dialed back on street level interactions. None. But the LEO's in schools do great work. Can't we once not throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!