City committee debates future of La Crosse officers in schools

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — A memorandum of understanding between the city’s Police Department and La Crosse School District regarding School Resource officers was a contentious issue Tuesday at the city’s Judiciary and Administrative Committee meeting.

But the issue, which has been debated for months and included suggestions to pull the SROs out of the schools, ultimately advanced to the Common Council next week.

Residents and committee members debated the pros and cons of continuing the SROs’ 27-year presence in the schools.

Advocates of the SROs, who are stationed in some schools with the intent to be a safety factor, said they already hear stories of children attacked verbally and physically. Removing the SROs would make the problem worse for the targeted students — largely black, disabled and gay pupils, they said.

Resident Amber West said SROs don’t protect the attacked students and, in fact, some SROs “have called Black Lives Matter stupid.”

Resident Alice Benson said she doesn’t believe the MOU provides enough protection for SRO oversight committee members from possible police harassment. She expressed fear that they could face pressure like that that prompted a member of the La Crosse County Criminal Justice Management Council to resign.

Proponents of continuing the SROs countered that they serve a valuable purpose in maintaining order in the schools.

Police Chief Shawn Kudron noted that the MOU is the result of many meetings to ensure a positive relationship between police and the schools and their students.

Superintendent Aaron Engel, saying that “we know this is a contentious issue,” said he is comfortable with police policies and code of conduct to ensure that the SROs will be supervised properly.

During discussion of whether to refer the matter to next month’s meeting, committee member Scott Neumeister said that would be “a slap in the face” to police and school officials who worked so hard on the MOU.

Neimeister objected to the litany of complaints about police, countering that it discounts “the number of fights they’ve stopped … and the guns they’ve found.”
His children always felt safe in schools and comfortable with the SROs, he said.