Hearing over future of police at schools across California

There is now a statewide reckoning over the presence of police on campus. 

On Tuesday, California schools superintendent Tony Thurmond held an online hearing on the impact of police officers patrolling school campuses after concerns by students of color over police misconduct.

"Feelings and trauma that they’ve experienced in witnessing egregious acts of police brutality and racism," Thurmond said.

Several state lawmakers say it's time for change and reform and that means removing armed officers from school campuses. This, coming after nationwide protests against police brutality.

"There’s disparate impacts based on race," said State Assemblyman Rob Bonta. "We know that black students are overrepresented in arrests by school police officers, general dehumanization of children of color,"

Bonta said his hometown of Alameda recently decided to defund school resource officers. Oakland and San Francisco schools have also cut ties with law enforcement.

"Data from Oakland Unified indicates that police presence did not increase safety and in fact magnified racial disparities," said state Sen. Nancy Skinner.

Some have cited bomb threats, strangers on campus and natural disasters as reasons for having police officers at schools. But Skinner says there are alternatives, like simply calling 911 or relying more on school leaders.

"When I look at those types of citations as the reasons we would need police in schools, it just does not justify police presence," Skinner said. 

But police officers provided a different perspective.

Richmond police Officer Brian Lande was assigned to Richmond High School until two weeks ago when the West Contra Costa Unified School District disbanded the school resource officer program.

"We do not go into the schools looking to arrest students or to investigate students," Lande said. "It’s largely going in there to engage with students and try to bridge gaps."

Jesus Montana, a San Diego school police sergeant and a representative of the Peace Officers Research Association of California agreed,  saying campus officers are entrusted with "keeping the peace and mentoring our youth to continue being productive members of society."