Montgomery County removes school resource officers... kind of

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s FY 2022 budget proposal, the first he says he’s doing so through an "equity lens," would impact police and the county’s school resource officer (SRO) program.

While his announcement may have sounded confusing to some, Elrich’s proposal does not eliminate the SRO program.

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The county executive revealed his $6 billion budget fiscal plan virtually on Monday.

Elrich announced there would be no new taxes and schools would be fully funded. In the budget presentation’s slide for "Reimagining Public Safety," Elrich announced 29 positions would be eliminated from the Montgomery County Police Department. Five of those positions are vacant middle school SRO positions. The county’s police union, FOP Lodge 35, confirms these positions were never filled.

"If you’re removing sworn positions from a police department, of course, it’s 'defunding.' It’s concerning that we already had  25 vacant positions that these officers that they’re moving, are going to fall into, because we’re at least 25 officers short," said FOP Lodge 35 Vice President Lee Holland, "We already are a short department. We have 1.1 million residents and less than 1,300 police officers. That’s well below the national average. And now we’re removing more officers while violent crimes is increasing."

Holland also noted the skyrocketed number of carjackings the department is working with regional departments to respond to after the centralized auto-theft unit was removed from the department.

There were at least three different SRO program proposals in Montgomery County. Elrich threw another SRO program proposal the pot, sharing a proposal that calls for SROs be removed from schools and placed into the community. 

"They will not be stationed in the schools. They’re not going to be parked in the parking lot. They are not going to be walking on the grounds. They will literally be out in the community, available to the schools," said Elrich during Monday’s virtual presser.

Councilmember Will Jawando described Elrich’s budget proposal as a piece of the puzzle, moving forward on reform when it comes to police in schools. Over the summer, Jawando and Councilmember Hans Reimer proposed a bill that would eliminate the SRO program.

Jawando told FOX 5 proposals on Restorative Justice Training, after-school engagement hubs and therapist services have already been passed and that he’s work on another to have social workers and school psychiatrists in every high school.

"We have a SRO in every high school. We don’t have a school psychologist in every high school. So I think there’s more to do in those wrap-around services. But to the point of moving in the direction of ending the disproportionate harm that’s happening in the form of arrest for students of color, students with disabilities, this is a good step in the right direction. And now we just have to follow-through with this more holistic approach," said Jawando.

Holland also told FOX 5 FOP Lodge 35 was surprised to hear County Executive Marc Elrich say Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones was supportive of Elrich’s SRO plan. When asked whether Elrich spoke to the chief about it, Elrich answered: "He brought over the plan."

A spokesperson with Montgomery County Police told FOX 5 via email: "The Department does not comment on pending legislation."

The Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent is expected to release a report on the county’s SRO program in May. It was originally supposed to be finished in January. Meanwhile, the county council is still taking up different SRO legislation and amendments.

Councilmember Jawando says residents can expect to see actions finalized around SROs in the next two months.

You can read about the budget proposal here:

See Marc Elrich’s news conference on the budget proposal here: