County sheriff's offices say they are unclear about what the law permits them to do, causing them to end their SRO programs in schools across the state. Anoka County has ended its SRO program in 5 high schools, and Rockford High School in Hennepin county will not have one before classes start next week.
“With students returning to school very soon and SROs preparing to help at many schools across the state, we raise these concerns with the hopes that you will provide an immediate response that will provide clarity to police chiefs about the law change regarding SRO's abilities to keep the children and staff safe,” The Minnesota Sheriff’s Association wrote in a letter to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.
The law bans SROs from using dangerous restraints against students, stating that an SRO “shall not restrict or impair a pupil’s ability to breathe, restrict or impair a pupil’s ability to communicate distress; place pressure or weight on a pupil’s head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back or abdomen.” Police spokespeople across the state have said that the new regulations put officers in a “bind,” causing some residents to say that SROs appear unable to do their job without the use of deadly force. One such person is State Rep. Leigh Finke, who wrote “the restraints cops want to use in schools are banned (and should be) in prisons [and] jails, and many police departments.”
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association asked the governor to clarify the law, which he said he will do when asked earlier this week while visiting the Minnesota State Fair. Attorney General Keith Ellison has said that officers can still use “reasonable force” to prevent harm from coming to students, and that the law does not change the definition of “reasonable.”
So far Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Redwood and Hennepin County police departments have said they will stop providing SROs to schools.