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New Agreement Limits Police Authority on School Campuses

Published on Thursday, August 1, 2013 | 4:58 am
 

After 16 months of revisions, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Pasadena Unified School District and the Pasadena Police Department was adopted Tuesday night at the PUSD board meeting.

The reformed MOU puts six police officers on high school and middle school campuses. The officers will be part of a new division, the Safe Schools Team, and will have their own lieutenant.

“The basic principle is that, in light of Sandy Hook and Columbine, it makes our schools a safer place,” board vice president Tyron Hamilton said after the meeting.

The original agreement, passed in 2006 and added to in 2008, raised red flags in the view of the Pasadena-Foothills chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Because of the broad language in that original agreement, the ACLU was concerned that the school district was ceding too much authority over the campus climate to the Pasadena Police Department.

“Our concern was that students would be swept into the criminal justice system,” said ACLU attorney Brendan Hamme.

The approved memorandum clarifies that Safe Schools Team officers will respond to three types of service calls, and clearly states that police will not to be called upon for disciplinary issues.

Officers may be called for three categories of responses:

“Priority one calls,” which are defined as in-progress crimes that pose an immediate threat to life or property, such as a shooting, rape, robbery, burglary, or a fight;

“Priority two calls” are events in which there is not an immediate threat to life, such as child abuse, public intoxication, and indecent exposure; and

The third type of call, which does not pose threat to life or property, and there is little likelihood of apprehending a suspect. Priority three calls include auto burglary, grand theft, and felony malicious mischief.

Hamme said that this was the most important part of the reforms.

“The MOU specifically cites when it is appropriate for police officers to respond to calls on campus,” Hamme said. “There are concrete guidelines for when police are supposed to be involved, and for when it’s strictly a matter of discipline.”

The states the SST team must meet monthly with principals to discuss “identify issues and evaluate progress.”

Hamme, who worked on revising the MOU for the last year, said, “It’s our way of specifically limiting the authority of the police on campus.”

Besides answering emergency calls, the SST officers will also work to build relationships with students and help to provide conflict resolution between them, though officers defer to school administration on this matter.

“It brings a dialogue between the police and students, because oftentimes there’s not that dialogue and students feel that police are out to get them,” Hamilton said. “It holds our youth a little more accountable and lets Pasadena police know that these are kids.”

 

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