Phoenix City Council, police department discuss campus safety options as SROs are in demand again

We’re in the middle of summer, but the new school year isn’t far away and issues, like school safety, are taking top priority.

More Phoenix-area schools say they want school resource officers (SROs) on campus this year, but the city is struggling to provide them.

In 2020, Phoenix Union announced the district wouldn't re-sign an agreement with the city of Phoenix for SROs. But in the past few months, the district has re-thought the relationship, holding listening sessions on the issue.

On July 3, the Phoenix City Council voted to extend contracts with their current school resource officers, but the number of new schools wanting them on campuses far exceeds the actual amount of officers available.

Now they’re looking at other options to fill that gap.

The funding approved by the council will go toward renewing current contracts for 64 school resource officers used across 71 schools. At least 9 additional school districts now want their own SROs on campus.

Finding enough sworn officers is proving difficult.


Phoenix high school district bringing back officers to its campuses

The Phoenix Union school board accepted grant money from the Arizona Department of Education to hire six officers, who will be called RROs, or Regional Response Officers.

"If we were to fulfill those requests on a one-to-one model, we would need the three additional officers to fill the existing four SRO slots. Then we would also need an additional 46 officers to fill the new requests," a speaker at the council meeting said.

In fact, Phoenix Police say they’re down about 560 sworn officers department-wide and adding additional SROs from regular patrol would take a huge toll.

"If we're talking 46 positions, that's four squads, ten officer squads, and that would be incredibly challenging," Executive Assistant Chief Sean Patrick Connolly said. "It would require us to take a huge step back in the things that we're doing and really look at what we would have to stop doing to be able to add 40 additional officers to the patrol division in the SRO program. I mean, it would be a significant, significant resource allocation for this organization currently."

The department and city council are considering other options, potentially including a multi-school or regional model, where a district will share one SRO.

They’re also looking into using civilian staff, retired officers, former military members or using SROs from other jurisdictions to meet the growing need. These options will be discussed with members and education partners at a future date.  

"All of us want the safety of schools," Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor said. "Shootings are not prevented, however with SROs on there, an immediate impact can happen."