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School Resource Officers at ACPS on chopping block as Police chief proposes alternative program

Alexandria City Councilors seemed surprised by Police Chief Michael Brown on Tuesday night, when he presented an alternate plan to Council Mo Seifeldein’s proposal to reappropriate nearly $800,000 in School Resource Officer funding for mental health resources for school aged children.

“The proposal is to cut the funding and redirect it,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “It sounds like the Chief is talking about something that involves retaining the funding, and making changes to the way the folks are operating.”

Per the proposal, $789,909 for SRO funding would be reallocated to “add mental health resources for school aged children, support staff to the Teen Wellness Center, an additional Behavioral Health Specialist to the ACORP Pilot, and other similar needs identified by staff.”

If passed, the proposal would require an implementation plan from police and ACPS, and be presented to Council by July. It currently has the support of Seifeldein, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Canek Aguirre — just enough to pass.

Brown asked that Council not cut the six officers from the budget, but instead transition them to a new community engagement program that he recently unveiled to the city manager. As part of that program, police are increasing a community presence in areas of the city with increased crime, such as Old Town North and Arlandria.

“But the key is we need staffing to do it, and with these people if we ended up having to move out of the SRO program as a council policy decision, we would recommend that we keep those assets because we’re going to need them for that,” Brown said.

Seifeldein said that Brown’s proposal was news to him.

“I don’t know really what’s going on here,” Seifeldein said. “I have not heard of this till now. It is not my proposal and I certainly do not support it and does not fall in line within the parameters of the proposal which deals exclusively with mental health resources to school aged children.”

Seifeldein continued, “Am I hearing that you just kind of reworking your budget and looking potentially at your overhead and moving that to this, or are you talking about taking the money that I’m proposing for the mental health program to be reappropriated to what you just talked about?”

Last month, School Board members asked City Council to respect their decision on SROS after its bi-annual memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with the police department.

The final add/delete session for the fiscal year 2022 budget is on Monday, May 3.

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