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Edmonds police chief disappointed with board decision to remove SROs


Last updated 6/24/2020 at 6:48pm

Brian Soergel

Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless

Edmonds Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless on June 24 said he is disappointed with the Edmonds School District's decision to terminate contracts with local enforcement agencies providing school resource officers to three high schools within the district.

They include Edmonds-Woodway, Meadowdale, and Mountlake Terrace high schools.

"The process for reestablishing school resource officers within the district several years ago was long, thoughtful, deliberate, and collaborative," he said in a news release.

"The emphasis, then and now, has always been about the building of relationships with, and maintaining the safety of, the students, staff and faculty. The Edmonds Police Department officer assigned to Edmonds-Woodway High School is highly skilled, trained, and respected within the department, and more importantly within the EWHS community."

That officer is Tom Smith.

"While I completely understand the desire and sense of urgency to immediately address community concerns surrounding social injustices, I believe that this decision was borne out of emotion, not data, and was hastily undertaken," Lawless said.

"I am disappointed that this process was not more deliberative and inclusive of all parties involved – the district, students, faculty, staff, and yes, the police department. I do not believe that the school board president's comments are in any way reflective of the positive relationships and impacts that our officer has had at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

"I am quite disappointed that she would paint your police department's efforts with such a broad brush. We have always worked in concert with these parties in developing response plans to day-to-day issues, as well as the critical incidents which are an unfortunate reality in today's world. This is an opportunity lost to continue to develop and grow positive relationships between law enforcement and the youth within our community."

Lawless said the full-time staff position previously dedicated to the school resource officer will immediately be shifted to assisting with the development and implementation of the Edmonds Police Department's body-worn camera pilot project.

"The ultimate goal will be to secure funding to support a full body-worn camera program," Lawless said, "to include program management and equipment/software sufficient enough to issue every sworn officer a body worn camera."

The vote to remove SROS from the three schools was unanimous among all five school board members: Gary Noble, Deborah Kilgore, Carin Chase, Nancy Katims, and Ann McMurray.

New Superintendent Gustavo Balderas had requested that the decision wait for a year so a new school-safety program plan could be brought to the board.


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