|Date:||February 9, 2021|
In 2020, at the request of a coalition of our partners, PPG began to research the police and security presence in Buffalo Public Schools. We learned that there are three types of security personnel that interact with Buffalo Public School students.
The three types of security personnel are hired, trained, deployed, and paid differently.
Here is an overview of what we know about each type so far:
1) BPS Security Staff
These are staff members who are hired by BPS to be in the schools day in and day out. They are unarmed, and they receive the following training: trauma informed care, conflict resolution, Edge training (how a student’s brain is functioning when emotional), CPR, Community First Aid, and a mandated NYS 8-hour security officer course.
2) Buffalo Police Department Officers - "School Resource Officers"
These officers respond to 9-1-1 calls from Buffalo schools, as part of their regular police duty. Called “School Resource Officers,” these are full-time officers of the Buffalo Police Department (BPD). These 9 or 10 BPD officers receive some training in trauma informed care and de-escalation of conflicts. They are not stationed in the schools and only come to a school when called via 9-1-1. They are responsible for responding to calls from all Buffalo schools (Private, Charter, Public and Catholic).
3) Off-Duty Buffalo Police Department Officers
These off-duty officers are employed and paid by the Buffalo Public Schools. Yet, they do not have a contract with BPS, and their role is not clear. They do not seem to have any additional training that would prepare them to work with students (e.g. trauma informed care or de-escalation training). We have not yet confirmed whether these officers are armed. These officers are stationed at five Buffalo Public Schools: Burgard, East, Hutch Tech, MST, and South Park. They also work sports events and after school special events in BPS. In 2019, BPS paid these off-duty police officers more than $213,000. The median payment to off-duty officers who worked for BPS in 2019 was $3,500, though some individual officers made over $10,000. At least seven of these off-duty officers are among the top 10% of officers in their division with the most excessive force complaints or civilian complaints.
PPG partners and local parent groups have raised concerns about the practice of stationing off-duty Buffalo police officers in certain BPS schools.
These officers are paid an hourly rate by BPS, yet there is no written agreement between these officers and BPS outlining these officers’ roles or expected behavior. (PPG submitted a FOIL request to obtain such documentation, contract, or agreement, and we were told that it does not exist.)
This is highly concerning because excessive policing in schools is a major driver of the school-to-prison pipeline—the process by which youth are criminalized and funneled into the criminal justice systems. Paying off-duty BPD officers to work in certain BPS schools without stated expectations or responsibilities is likely to contribute to the criminalization of students.
Further, as some of our partners are asking, is paying these off-duty officers the best use of BPS funds? Instead of paying possibly-armed BPD officers without any student-specific training and undefined responsibilities, these funds could instead be allocated to positions and programming that would support the social-emotional well-being of students such as counselors, social workers, or restorative practices programming.
Together with our partners, we will be meeting with BPS officials and Board of Education members to discuss the practice of stationing off-duty police officers in certain schools. We recommend the following steps:
As stated in our 2021 Community Agenda, removing these off-duty police from schools will reduce the amount of negative police-civilian interactions that occur in schools and the chances of unconstitutional interrogations of children in schools. In schools where these officers are stationed, the student makeup is majority Black. Ending the practice of off-duty police officers in schools will reduce the criminalization of Black children and advance racial justice.
Because there is no documentation available about off-duty police officers in the schools, there are several remaining questions about this practice:
We look forward to working with our partners, BPS officials, and the Board of Education toward ending this practice.