SRO stand off may come to a temporary end soon

photo: Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune/AP

As of this morning, some 40 law enforcement agencies around the state have suspended their School Resource Officer programs (SROs) because of poorly worded legislation this past session that arguably prohibited SRO’s, as agents of the school, from using any force unless a student was causing bodily harm or death. 

That is likely to change this week after attorneys representing various law enforcement groups have offered guidance for returning on a temporary basis, while maintaining their position that a permanent fix is necessary next legislative session.

Last Wednesday the law enforcement groups met with Governor Walz, DFL legislative leaders, and Attorney General Ellison.  During the meeting, the Attorney General provided an updated legal opinion on the issue, further clarifying the legislative intent not to prevent SROs from using the force reasonably necessary to carry out their duties, consistent with the current use of force authorization for officers in 609.06. 

Lawyers representing the law enforcement groups determined late Friday that the new legal opinion, which is binding unless overturned by a court, may provide law enforcement agencies with the protection and assurance needed to return their SROs to schools, but that such a decision should be made on a case-by-case basis after consultation with individual law enforcement agency’s legal advisors.

In a statement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer’s Association (MPPOA), General Counsel Imran Ali stated:

A legislative solution is the only way to permanently fix this issue. Although commitments for hearings are helpful, they are not commitments to correcting the law. We will work with Governor Walz and legislative supporters to bring about a permanent resolution to this issue.

Look for many of the law enforcement agencies that have held their SROs out of schools this fall to begin returning them this week.  They will be doing so because they want to put the safety of kids first, not because a permanent solution to the issue was reached. 

It appears to remain lost on DFL leadership that on one hand they have argued vehemently that the new legal language at issue is not a concern, yet on the other hand they are “committed” to addressing the issue in the legislature in the first two weeks of the 2024 session. 

If a permanent solution isn’t reached early next legislative session, look for law enforcement agencies to stop contracting with school districts to provide SROs.

“If this law is unable to be fixed statutorily next session, law enforcement agencies will need to re-evaluate their relationships with school districts and their SRO programs in the long-term.” 

Imran Ali, General Counsel for MPPOA

Once again the concerns of law enforcement have been marginalized by the left. For now, officers continue to serve. That commitment should be valued. The longer it isn’t, the more likely the commitment will fade.