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Kanabec County Sheriff's Office putting SRO program on hold

Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith said the sheriff’s office will put its school resource officer (SRO) program on hold after changes made during the Minnesota Legislature.

An education bill passed during the legislative session would prohibit restraints used by law enforcement contracted by school districts.

In a recent interview on the KBEK morning show Smith explained the legislation as "basically eliminating use of force of any nature."

The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office has had a shared officer between Mora and Ogilvie schools. According to Smith, the SRO previously spent two days in Ogilvie and three days in Mora during the school week.

"We're going to have to eliminate that," Smith said.

Smith said the school resource officer has built important connections at both schools.

"I really believe in that program," he explained. "I think it's a good program for a lot of different reasons. There's an extra aspect of safety and security within the schools, but there's connections being made with kids who need connections."

Smith said he hopes eliminating the SRO program isn’t permanent.

"I would implore and challenge the legislature to call a special session to get back to work and fix this so that our schools can be serviced the way they should be," he said.

In an email, Mora Public Schools Superintendent Dan Voce shared that he was notified Thursday that the SRO would not be at Mora Schools. Voce shared the following statement:

Mora Public Schools and Kanabec County Sheriff's office has had a longstanding relationship for many years. This includes a partnership in which local officers are placed in our schools as school resource officers. Mora Schools is actively working with Kanabec County Sheriff's office to seek clarification and understanding about the change in state law. In the meantime, I trust the Kanabec County Sheriff's Department will provide ongoing support to our schools. We will continue to provide updates as we become aware of any developments or changes. Please be assured that we join officers in remaining committed to doing all we can to keep our students and staff safe. We hope this situation is resolved quickly so we can have our school resource officer in our schools.

The Pine City School Board voted to terminate its school resource officer contract with the Pine County Sheriff's Office during a meeting earlier this week.

"We are already governed by use of force statutes," Smith said. "There are already rules in place. And now, with these, now you can't even do your job when it demands."

Photo from Kanabec County Sheriff's Office Facebook page

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