February 11, 2016

House bill would let schools commission law enforcement officers

The State House has given initial approval to a bill to let the state’s schools hire school law enforcement officers.

Representative Sheila Solon (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Sheila Solon (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The proposal’s sponsor, Representative Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs), says it is a response to the school shooting that left 20 students dead at a Connecticut elementary school in December. She says it would extend to the rest of the state’s schools the ability to do as those in her hometown do.

She says Blue Springs is, “The only school district in the state of Missouri that is allowed, by statute, to hire its own officers and they’ve had that ability since 2009. Currently the school district has 11 full-time officers and it’s getting to hire 6 more that patrol the schools, and it has worked out very well.”

See the proposal, HB 152

The bill received bipartisan support during floor debate, including from Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis), who says she worked with a school resource officer when she taught.

“I think there’s a lot of fear now that we’re going to have more police officers in our school and there’s going to be guns in our school, but the reality is for many of our schools these officers are already there and they’re making a very positive influence.”

Montecillo added, the officer at the St. Louis area school she taught in developed a great relationship with the students.

“We were able to prevent so many incidents just by the fact that they trusted him. For some of our students, that’s the only positive influence they have with police officers.”

The bill would have the Drug Abuse Resistance Enforcement program create the training for school resource officers.

An amendment was added to the bill that would change the requirements for reporting crimes against children to law enforcement. It was offered by Representative Marsha Haefner (R-St. Louis).

“This is the same loophole that was important in the Jerry Sandusky case, and when looking at the Missouri law we found that we had the same discrepancy in our law that they had. This is just to tighten that up and is part of the recommendations from the Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sex Abuse.”

The amendment would make anyone the state considers a “mandated reporter” report a suspected crime to law enforcement, personally.

The package requires another favorable vote to reach the Senate.