Questions remain on future of Burlington school resource officers

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Questions remain about the future of police officers in Burlington schools. Our Dom Amato has been digging into this and breaks down the debate for you.

Burlington Police say school resource officers cultivate relationships with students and keep them safe in case of an emergency.

Those against SROs say an armed cop in schools causes trauma, especially for minority students.

The school board narrowly made the decision to recommend the program remain funded for this school year, but they still must have a conversation with police to redefine officers' roles in schools so everyone feels comfortable and safe.

"We're going to keep talking about it in the coming days and we'll see where the conversation goes but there's a real question about whether this program is going forward," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Burlington Police presented data to the board highlighting SRO interactions with students in or outside of school that led to an arrest. It's important to note arrests in this case doesn't always mean handcuffs. They say in the last two years, incidents SROs respond to only resulted in an arrest around 2% of the time. But racial data shows a disparity in Black arrests being made a disproportionate rate.

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad says there is more work to do but they remain committed to the program.

"I think the data that I presented really does present a vision of how that data moves in the right direction, how this program has been efficacious and how it's something we should not be throwing out because, in other places, it doesn't achieve these same kinds of results," Murad said.

Much of the discussion at Thursday's school board meeting focused on disarming officers and putting them in plain clothes if they were to remain in schools. That idea was supported by about half of the board.

The City Council will decide on the Burlington budget which includes the funding for 2 SROs in the district on Monday.