Police Will Return to MCPS Schools Next Year in Narrowly Defined Role

by Liam Trump ‘24

A year after MCPS made the decision to remove a designated police officer from each of its high schools, the school system is bringing them back in a modified form. The plan for reintroducing police came only weeks after a shooting at Magruder critically injured a 15 year old.

With the title of Community Engagement Officers (CEOs), these police officers will differ from the previous Student Resource Officers (SROs) by wearing civilian clothes rather than police uniforms, and they will respond only to more specific incidents that are potentially criminal activities rather than school disciplinary issues.

The largest difference between SROs and CEOs, other than the name change, is the fact that CEOs won’t be stationed permanently in schools; instead, they’ll have designated workstations when they need to come to a school. Also, they will be available to attend school events such as sports games and large dances.

“I do think [CEOs] will be beneficial because they have other resources MCPS might not know about. With things happening now in the school system it will make it feel like a safer environment,” said security team leader Dominique Dixon. “If an incident were to take place in a school with a police officer they can get the message out quicker to have reinforcements on site.”

SROs were in MCPS middle and high schools for 19 years. However, calls to remove uniformed police officers from schools grew during the 2020-21 school year. Student and community activists argued that mental health should be more prioritized and that students of color were disproportionately arrested by SROs. The activists said that SROs had contributed to a negative relationship between students and the police, eventually leading to the SRO program being taken out of MCPS’s fiscal budget.

Superintendent Monifa McKnight has said previously that the CEO program will have a greater focus on students’ mental health. With the plan for CEOs to be in place next school year, activists hope that they will focus more on building relationships.

“I can’t speak for CEOs,” said Dixon. “But [I think] they would help students feel comfortable with them being in the building and try to get them to understand the program.”