OUSD board member wants peacekeepers instead of police

Oakland Unified School District board member Rosie Torres said students ask her questions like this, “Why do we have police? Is it because we’re students of color? Is it because people have a negative reaction to what we look like?”

Torres said she wanted to have a good solution and one that would put them at ease. She introduced "The George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate Oakland Schools Police Department” and the board will vote on it Wednesday afternoon. 

“I feel very confident OUSD is moving in the right direction,” said Torres.

OUSD is the only district in the Bay Area with an internal police department.

This resolution would disband the department, which currently has seven officers, two sergeants and a chief. They aren’t based at schools but respond when there are issues.

Without the 10-member team, Torres said $6 million would go back in the general fund and could be used towards student services and a new safety plan.

The plan could include security cameras, gates that lock, visitors to be checked in at the main office and trained peacekeepers roaming campuses.

We asked her about people who are against this resolution, those who believe armed officers keep students and schools safe, but she said police at schools give a false sense of security.

“You can’t get officers to 84 schools if incidents are going on all over the place," she said. "We’ve always had to rely on city police so this isn’t anything new.”

California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond launched a new task force on school safety. The first job is to get more information about the impact of police at schools.

“I’ve already seen data that shows in many cases that when there are police on campus this results in more suspensions or arrest in our students in particular African American students and other students of color. This is a condition that must be changed,” said Thurmond.

The state is partnered with non-profit WestEd to provide a review of available research to sort out whether or not having a police presence leads to a safer environment. Thurmond wants clear standards to be set.

“A police officer should never be the dean of students or the disciplinarian for student behavior. Many districts have used school resource officers in this way, this is harmful to our students,” he said.

The task force will meet for the first time on June 30.