Peoria Public School officials weigh in on importance of school resource officers

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PEORIA, Ill (WMBD) — Calls for police reform sweeping the nation, wanting officers pulled from schools.

School resource officers say they’re there to keep the schools safe. Most districts get officers from local departments. But in Peoria, the officers are separate from any other agency, giving what school officials say is a distinct advantage.

Safe, secure and peaceful since 1972. Peoria public schools’ director of school safety says it’s their mission.

“We’re more intervention approach. Deal with more emotional needs and trauma. That’s the type of training and work we do,” said Chief Demario Boone, Peoria Public Schools.

Chief Demario Boone says his officers have the same goal.

“The approach our officers have, compliments the goals the school district has to educate the whole child,” said Boone.

Peoria Public Schools is one of few that do not use city or county officers as school resource officers.
In response to recent police-involved killings, some who live in areas where schools hire police officers are now asking for alternatives.

“People want things to be safer, but what are they asking for. Do they want somebody, either a psychologist or somebody and not a police man come in with a hand on their gun and stuff. I think our SRO’s make our schools safer,” said Daniel Walther, school board member.

“It’s just because, we deal with people differently in that. Because we are dealing with students and we are sensitive to that. We just can’t have some SRO grabbing a student and throwing him up against the wall. That’s just not acceptable,” said Walther.

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat saying their officers are doing what people are asking for when they call to ‘defund police.’

They’re doing the counseling, they’re doing the social work and home visits,” said Dr. Kherat, superintendent of Peoria Public Schools.

She also says many play key roles in the students’ daily lives.

“A lot of them serve as role models for young people. They’re developing relationships, home visits, talking to kids,” said Dr. Kherat.

School board member Daniel Walther saying he understands the calls for reform when city or county officials are SRO’s– he says because the officers aren’t affiliated with local departments. The district has an advantage.

“They are trained for de-escalation and dealing with students. I mean, that’s their background. City police, and I’m not bad mouthing them, but they are trained in a different way. I think it’s more aggressive in the training they have had,” said Walther.

Boone saying his officers are there to bridge gaps and build stronger relationships with the Peoria community

All three of those officials say Peoria school resource officers have been recognized by the state and nation for their service

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