Fremont schools to decide fate of police on campus

On Thursday, Fremont Unified’s school board could determine the fate of its school resource officers. A task force recommended campuses be police-free similar to San Francisco and Oakland.

After George Floyd’s death over the summer, a task force comprised of 25 community members was created to re-evaluate Fremont’s SRO program.

The group released their findings. They said, a key finding was the program had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino students and those with disabilities.

“From the years 2015-2018, while black students in Fremont Unified only make up two percent of the population, they made up 20 percent of arrests,” said Fremont parent and task force member Antonio Herrera.

“We found that Fremont officers were simply lacking in their ability to address mental health issues,” said Fremont student and task force member Kavin Goyal.

Their recommendation is to replace school resource officers with qualified mental health professionals.

“I’m really disappointed and frankly blindsided by how this task force progressed,” said Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen.

Petersen welcomes the feedback but said police did not have a seat at the table. In 22 years, the program has never had any formal complaints. She said SROs are critical.

“The service we provide by having those officers on campus is immediate access to that officer,” said Petersen. “They have immediate access where someone has a weapon.”

Chief Petersen contends last year, there were 12 arrests and no black student was arrested. In regards to mental health, she said few people are trained to restrain someone during crisis.

“I believe there is very strong community support for this program,” said Fremont parent and task force member Malcolm Hoar. “It just wasn't represented on the task force.”

Hoar doesn't agree with the recommendations. He said the report failed to mention a survey that showed overwhelming student support.

The task force member also said all six high school principals support the program. The school board is set to vote on the recommendations Thursday night.

Fremont’s mayor has asked the school board for a joint meeting with the city council before a decision is made.