Community Agenda Win: Off-Duty Police Officers Removed From Buffalo Public Schools

Date: March 16, 2021

At the February 10, 2021 Buffalo Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Kriner Cash announced that off-duty police “have gone” from Buffalo Public Schools and “will no longer be in our school system.” This marks the first policy victory for PPG's 2021 Community Agenda.

Superintendent Cash’s announcement came after several months of advocacy together with our partner organization District Parent Coordinating Council, WNY Minority Bar Association, Free the People WNY, and other community organizations and residents. 

As recently as July 2020, when schools were closed due to the pandemic, off-duty Buffalo Police Officers were hired by Buffalo Public Schools and stationed in six schools, all of which have a majority of Black and Latinx students. This was a separate layer of enforcement in addition to the on-duty Buffalo School Resource Officers, who respond to police calls in all Buffalo schools, and private security guards, who are employed throughout the public school system. Students in schools with off-duty police were subjected to police questioning without parents or counsel present for minor disciplinary issues, contributing to the criminalization of young people of color. Black and brown children make up a disproportionate share of suspended students and expelled students in the Buffalo public school system. In 2019, Buffalo Public Schools spent over $200,000 on off-duty officers, according to data obtained through a FOIL request by PPG.

At the February 10 board meeting, after hearing comments from PPG staff, partners, and community members, Superintendent Cash let the public know of this shift in policy. He said that he “was not aware of that element of our strategy until recently,” and that having off-duty police in schools “is not the model of school partnership and strategy that we want with our SROs and the Buffalo Police Department.”

Dr. Cash said, “we have moved in a different direction, closer to best practice,” and that “having those off-duty police officers in our schools over a period of ten years” is “completely inappropriate.” He also spoke in support of the Board of Education writing a resolution to permanently ban the practice of stationing off-duty officers in schools, saying “I’ll be the first one to help write it.”

“We are not about arrest, transport, fingerprint and put into the system. We’re about the opposite of that, which is restorative practices, trauma informed care, disproportionality training, and culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and leadership practices,” Dr Cash said.

Over the last year, the call to remove off-duty police officers from public schools grew louder, with support from many community organizations and residents:

  • Last June, amid anti-police brutality protests in Buffalo, Free the People WNY drafted a list of 13 demands, including one to remove off-duty police from Buffalo Public Schools. These demands were presented to the Mayor and other elected officials.
  • In August, the Western New York Minority Bar Association presented a set of police reform recommendations which echoed the call to remove off-duty police from schools.
  • In September, the Buffalo Chapter of the NAACP, the Buffalo Peacemakers, Most Valuable Parents, members of the Concerned Clergy Coalition, and other community members joined the Minority Bar Association in that recommendation, among others.
  • In December, PPG’s partner network formally voted to add this priority to their 2021 Community Agenda.   

This policy victory is the result of the strengths and connections of a broad network of organizations and individuals from all parts of the city moving this issue forward. 

PPG looks forward to continuing our work with these partners, as we ask the Board of Education to formally ban the practice of employing off-duty police officers in schools.

This post was written by PPG Policy Fellow Miles Gresham (