COLLEGE PLACE – As school resource officers prepare to return to some local campuses this fall, new police reform laws passed by the Washington Legislature will lead to some changes.
College Place Police Chief Troy Tomaras and Public Information Officer Dylan Schmick said within the new laws is specific mention to law enforcement’s ability to question juveniles without legal representation.
The CPPD’s interpretation of the law is that juveniles are required to have legal representation present before any guilt-seeking questioning. The law also states that the juveniles are not able to deny the legal counsel either.
Tomaras and Schmick agree the new laws present challenges when officers must contact juveniles and investigate crimes in the street as the same rules will apply within the school.
“College Place will still have an SRO,” Tomaras said. “There are new training requirements for SROs under the new laws which have already been completed.”
Tomaras added his department provides one SRO who spends time at each school within the city, but mostly at College Place High School and John Sager Middle School.
The Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office will also provide a school resource officer at Walla Walla High School.
“In addition, we encourage our deputies stop by other schools as time allows to make an appearance and interact with the students and staff,” Undersheriff Joe Klundt said.
The Walla Walla Police Department has not provided school resource officers for several years, according to Chief Scott Bieber. He said that in 2015 or 2016 Lincoln High School and the middle schools decided to use the revenues that paid half the cost of the school-based officers for other purposes.
“The reason there is not an SRO in the schools inside the city limits of Walla Walla is that the schools did not want one,” Bieber said.
Bieber added if the schools told WWPD today they want a school resource officer to return, and the revenue was available from the city, the department wouldn’t be able to fill the request for at least a year due to staffing vacancies.
“Our officers do stop in regularly, or did before COVID, to visit students and staff,” Bieber added. “The Walla Walla Area Crime Watch funds Cafeteria with a Cop where an officer can stop in and have lunch with the kids.”