HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Dozens of people urged the state legislature today to keep police offers on the streets, instead of moving them into schools.
“Their job is to arrest and put away criminals,” said Andrea Kitchen-Walker, who graduated from New London High School. “Children are not criminals.”
Kitchen-Walker was arrested by a school resource officer when she was in the sixth grade. Her story, she said, feeds into the school-to-prison pipeline.
“I was arrested, booked, placed into a prison cell,” Kitchen-Walker said. “I was a kid.”
Officers’ roles, she said, that would be better suited for social workers.
As a policeman and a former school resource officer, Rep. Anthony Nolan (D-District 39) is co-sponsoring a bill requiring clarity around the use and duties of officers in schools. He said that officers do not belong in schools permanently, and should only be there for police-related issues.
“It’s a matter of using the right person for the right things,” he said. “It’s not to say that police won’t be welcomed in the school.”
Just this week, students have been arrested at schools in Manchester, Waterbury, Hamden and Meriden for fighting and bringing weapons to school.
Having police at schools, Officer James Valentine said, allows them to be there to handle similar situations.
“It’s proactive instead of reactive,” Valentine, who is a school resource officer at Southington High School, said.
He said the narrative of arresting children is incorrect, and that he’s only made three arrests in his four years at the high school. Instead, he said the role allows him to make connections with students and flip stigmas around law enforcement.
“I gain their respect or trust that they will come see me first, feel comfortable with you, and I even tell them, because they even say not all officers are like me, and I say, ‘No, that’s incorrect, some of the officers are just like me,'” Valentine said.