PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Three shootings have taken place outside of Portland high schools in the last two months. No one has died — but students have been injured. 

On Monday, a 16-year-old was shot outside Cleveland High School. This followed two separate shootings in October and November in which three students at Jefferson High School were hurt.

Aaron Schmautz, the president of the Portland Police Association, was in charge of the Portland School Resource Officer program until Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero decided to remove the officers from schools in June 2020.

“What’s been so difficult is all of that work was built on relationships. My school resource officers were actually given the model agency award for the entire nation in 2019 and nine months later they were disbanded,” Schmautz said. “So, it’s been very difficult to see what we feared would happen, happen, which is not only emotional safety kind of falling apart in our school environment but also now actual safety and concerns for kids being safe in and around their school environment.”

Now, amid talks that PPS may bring back school resource officers, Schmautz said “you can’t just put police officers in a school environment and hope that things go well because the jobs are just so different.” 

Schmautz explained that part of the SRO’s duties included diverting students from pathways to violence, in addition to handling other threats at the school.

Meanwhile, there have been concerns about the program such as racial bias policing by SROs. However, Schmautz said “there was no actual evidence that we were engaging in any biased-based policing. In fact, there was evidence to the opposite,” Schmautz said. He noted the importance of a “multi-disciplinary approach” of working with school officials to help avoid these issues.

Additionally, other concerns surround some studies which show that having an armed officer in schools does not prevent school shootings.

“First of all, when it comes to actual active threat incidents, what the data does show is that when intervention by police or by some force begins, harm begins to end,” Schmautz said. “But aside from that, school police officers aren’t just there to end those very rare, but very tragic incidents. What they are there to deal with is being a trusted adult in the environment. So, if kids are being abused at home or they have some kind of active issue in their life, they have someone they can report to.”

In terms of bringing back resource officers into schools, Schmautz pointed out some obstacles such as low-staffing within the Portland Police Bureau along with the need to review stopgaps in schools to see where the officers and community fit within the school environment.

“I think that we can talk about stopgaps or fixes. A lot of the money that was moved out of the police bureau was moved into community resources. So, I think it’s going to be very important for us to really, really quickly have discussions about non-profits or other things that exist that might be able to help,” Schmautz said.

The PPA president added “it’s so relationship-based. Done poorly, all we will do is exacerbate the perceptions that exist about law enforcement in a community that already has questions about it so, we have to do it right.”