In the aftermath of a highly publicized incident in which a Rolesville High school resource officer threw a fifteen-year-old girl to the ground, giving her a concussion, social justice advocates last week called a press conference to demand that SROs be removed from Wake County schools, beginning with a 50 percent reduction next year, and replaced by counselors and psychologists.
On Thursday, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison submitted his own recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. But Wake's top lawman didn't call for cop-free halls. He just wants his deputies to stop patrolling them. Instead, Harrison called for the creation of a school-system-run public safety department, a move he said would fix a "patchwork of a public safety system in our schools" that are "set up for failure."
"Currently, we have eleven chiefs of police and one sheriff with oversight," his letter said. "Each agency has different protocols and training standards that often may be in conflict with the goals and objectives set by the school board and superintendent."
A Wake County Public School System-run department, however, would be able to create its own "specialized training program," Harrison says, adding that a WCPSS "command center" would be better equipped to "ensure consistency" and "monitor every single school facility in the county."
Letha Muhammad, a leader of the Education Justice Alliance, laughed aloud when told of Harrison's proposition, then said she "disagrees wholeheartedly with the good sheriff." In her and other reform advocates' view, there should be a decreased—if not nonexistent—police presence inside public schools, not a WCPSS police force.
This isn't the first time the sheriff has weighed in on the county's SRO system. In September, he said he might pull his deputies from county schools if the school board didn't set a clear policy for transgender students, citing the example of a principal allowing a transgender female to use the girls' bathroom. Though Harrison supports the enforcement of HB 2, he said his beef was with inconsistent rules across the county's schools about whether this sort of thing should be permitted.
It's unclear how the school system will respond to Harrison's recommendation, but several school board members have said they're concerned about the costs associated with creating their own police department.
Calls to the WCPSS were not returned by press time.