No one is going to be upset about having police officers patrolling the school buildings when a bunch of kids get into a brawl that’s too big for teachers to handle.
No one’s going to be upset if these officers prevent a violent incident from spreading off school grounds into the city streets.
And certainly no one’s going to be upset having officers nearby should, God forbid, someone come into the school with a gun and start shooting.
There’s a level of safety and comfort that comes with having local police officers, with whom the students and teachers have become familiar, on duty keeping the peace so others can concentrate on the learning.
Those are just the most obvious and most significant benefits of the joint effort by the city of Schenectady and the school district to increase the number of so-called “school resource officers” at the middle and high schools.
Now that it’s likely the City Council will formally endorse the arrangement next week following the school district’s narrow approval last month, it’s up to all parties involved — the police, students, parents, board members and school administration and staff— to set their concerns aside and do their best to make it work.
We understand why students, parents and some citizens have raised objections, given some of the negative experiences with police involvement in schools throughout the country.
Instead of serving as role models and making students feel safe, comfortable and familiar, police in some cases have targeted minority students and perpetuated the discrimination and violence these individuals experience on the streets.
Police, city and school officials behind the program in Schenectady are keenly aware of that experience and are committed to not making it an element of this program.
Instead, they hope to model this after the community policing efforts going on across the country, in which officers and the public develop a cooperative relationship instead of an adversarial one.
The goal here is building a long-term relationship based on trust instead of fear and suspicion. Police will use the resources at their disposal to help students and families when they can. It’s not intended to be just about security. If it is, it won’t work.
Of course, the proof will be how it’s carried out in practice.
The pilot program in the high school that led to the expanded effort in each of the middle schools has proven to be quite positive.
But if either side feels it’s not working, there are opportunities to opt out. The program will be reviewed at the end of the next school year as well.
Everyone has an interest in seeing this effort work.
The time has come for opponents to stop fighting it, move forward and do their best to help it achieve its goal.