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Helena commission set to hold 2nd meeting on SRO program

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Posted at 12:05 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 14:05:58-04

HELENA — The Helena City Commission will hold its second meeting Thursday on whether to make changes in the Helena Police Department’s school resource officer program.

Interim City Manager Melinda Reed said the meeting is designed as a “work session,” giving city leaders a chance to talk about the issue and discuss options ahead of next Monday’s full commission meeting, where they are expected to make a decision on whether to continue funding SROs. It comes two weeks after commissioners held their first hearing reviewing the program July 9.

“There was very extensive testimony, but there wasn’t time for the commission to have a discussion,” said Reed.

These meetings are part of a broader review of HPD operations, started in response to nationwide calls for police reform after the death of George Floyd. The SRO program became the first major topic of discussion.

HPD currently places four uniformed officers on Helena Public Schools campuses. Some advocates have called for removing those officers, questioning whether they’re the best way to address issues within schools and suggesting the funding could be better used for other services. However, others say the SROs help make schools safer and should be maintained.

The city commission decided to temporarily delay $292,000 in HPD funding until after community discussions on the SRO program.

Thursday’s meeting will be conducted online, via Zoom, starting at 5 p.m. If you want to participate in the meeting, you can find out how to join on the city website. City leaders say there will be opportunities for public comment.