Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough will return to the Dallas City Council Wednesday to ask fellow members to reconsider last week’s vote to eliminate funding for the Dallas Police Department school resource officer program. DPD SROs work with students and faculty at LHHS and at other schools located in Dallas but not in DISD.
Last week’s cut passed by 8-6 in the “straw votes,” meant to indicate to city staffers which belt-tightening measures the council would support. Reduced city revenues during the pandemic have left big holes in the $3.8 billion budget, and planners are seeking cuts by the millions.
Reaction from the community was swift after neighbors learned the council voted against funding SROs.
“This is a bad decision,” wrote first responder and Lake Highlands dad Brad McCutcheon on Facebook. “A robust SRO program is community policing at its finest. Programs like these build relationships and trust in the community in addition to keeping kids and teachers safe. That anyone could oppose keeping kids safe and promoting positive relationships in the community is hard to imagine.”
“This is not fair or right,” agreed Richardson ISD School Board President Karen Clardy, who had advocated for the program over Zoom. “[RISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie] Stone and I spoke at the City Council meeting [Wednesday] to share the consequences if funding was cut for our SROs. It obviously fell on deaf ears.”
“There is a lot to worry about right now with Covid-19 and keeping our students safe fighting against an unprecedented pandemic,” wrote Stone, also taking to social media to share her message of frustration. “I had no idea before this past Wed, I would have to turn my attention toward a new worry of keeping our students and staff physically safe. I was shocked to learn of potential City of Dallas budget cuts (65% of RISD is in Dallas.) Without notice, I learned of a vote to cut funding for SROs in RISD. We have been working for years with Adam McGough and finally have full-time SROs and the makings of a strong SRO program where officers are RESOURCES to students, staff and families. At a time when we are supporting and building relationships with DPD, funding for SROs is in jeopardy. To my friends who are Dallas residents, please respectfully reach out to your Council Member and express your feelings about this, as well as to our Dallas Mayor. RISD is doing our part to fund our portion, and we need the commitment of the City to do their part to keep our schools safe. I never wade into Dallas City politics, and I don’t consider this to be the case now. I am wading into an issue of SCHOOL SAFETY – my absolute greatest responsibility as RISD superintendent.”
Richardson police officers provide SROs for RISD schools in the Richardson city limits, but nine DPD officers serve schools in Dallas proper. Seven are paid for by RISD, and two have been funded by Dallas. The cost of each DPD SRO is $123,446 annually, McGough said.
According to LHHS, SROs on campus have resulted in a triple-digit decrease in discipline incidents, a 60% drop in fights on campus and a 70% decrease in in-school suspensions. Drug-related incidents are down on campus, and referrals are up for support services at agencies outside the school system. Deputy Chief Avery Moore created the SRO program and Asst. Chief Lonzo Anderson oversees it. Sgt. Wilson leads the SROs in the northeast division, including Lake Highlands.
“Dave Clark does a great job – he’s been doing it forever,” said McGough of the popular DPD detective and SRO seemingly everywhere on the LHHS campus. “The students develop relationships with these officers and view them as resources. They share information and form bonds of trust.”
“Defunding police programs like SRO and the Police Activities League creates a wedge between police and the community,” continued McGough. “I hear amazing stories of our police officers – especially during Covid – engaging in new ways and changing kids’ lives. If you take that away, the community loses something very valuable.”
The Police Activities League’s Forest Audelia Boxing Gym was initially targeted for similar cuts, but councilmembers voted against them after McGough touted PAL’s success in the community helping DPD officers mentor young people via athletics, music and other activities.
In the days since the vote to cut funding for SROs, McGough has taken to social media to encourage neighbors to advocate for the program. He’s been inundated, he said, by calls and emails, but he’s not the one who needs persuading. “Yes” votes to cut the program came from Councilmember Adam Bazaldua (firstname.lastname@example.org), Councilmember Paula Blackmon (email@example.com), Councilmember David Blewett (firstname.lastname@example.org), Councilmember Lee Kleinman (email@example.com), Councilmember Omar Narvaez (firstname.lastname@example.org), Councilmember Jaime Resendez (Jaime.email@example.com), Councilmember Casey Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Councilmember Chad West (email@example.com).