Debate over local school resource officers reignited

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has reignited discussions about whether or not to enlist on-campus officers.

In 2020, the Tacoma, Seattle, and Edmonds Public School Districts each voted to end on-campus partnerships with law enforcement. The decision came following protests of police brutality. However, the Puyallup School District decided to keep their Student Resource Officers, or SROs, in place.

Deputy Carly Cappetto serves school districts in both Puyallup and Bethel as an SRO. She says many students spoke with her about the deadly shooting in Texas, worried that something like that could happen in their schools.

“I wake up every morning hoping that nothing like this would ever happen,” says Cappetto. “However, the reality of it is they do happen and we have to be prepared.”

She believes her work as an SRO is two-fold; preventing crime in the classroom and being able to respond quickly if something happens. She also believes it’s a position more schools should invest in.

“It’s important for the students to see us in the schools, and they do feel safer,” says Cappetto. “We investigate bullying situations, harassment situations, assaults, we deal with drugs and weapons in schools. There’s a lot that we deal with.”

Two years after the dismissal of SROs, parents are still torn.

Daniel Wharton, a dad, takes issue with the idea of armed officers in all schools. He believes it could be triggering for some students.

“I think it would be more frightening for them,” says Wharton. “Just having that armed presence.”

Mariah Arnold, a mom, disagrees.

“It would 100% make me feel safer,” says Arnold. “Because kids don’t know what to do. And teachers don’t know what to do.”

Cappetto says officers have the advantage of active shooter training, a deadly scenario that more and more schools are facing.

“Unfortunately, it takes a situation like Texas for people to recognize having that right in their school,” says Cappetto. “I feel that if we could have more school resource officers available to these students, we would have a more ideal situation. I know that’s not ideal in every situation. [But] It’s extremely important to have officers in the school to be that first responder.”