DeKalb city officials promise to invest in school safety with added school resource officers

After months of debate, the DeKalb City Council backed a deal to bring on board more SROs at District 428 schools.

Ald. Barb Larson participates in a June 27, 2022 meeting of the DeKalb City Council.

DeKALB— To help promote a safe environment for students and staff, DeKalb city leaders agreed to hire two additional school resource officers in an updated contract with DeKalb School District 428 for the upcoming year.

The DeKalb City Council on Monday voted, 8-0, to update an intergovernmental agreement between the City of DeKalb and the school district for the 2022-23 school year.

Discussion on the topic had loomed for months at board meetings with some parents expressing concerns about increasing the number of SROs to address behavior-related issues at DeKalb-area schools.

District 428 has one SRO at DeKalb High School, one SRO split between its two middle schools and a third SRO split between its eight elementary schools.

Second Ward Alderwoman Barb Larson said she is excited about what the added SROs will mean for the city’s schools.

“That will be the collaboration that we need to get students to where they need to be and, if they’re not, students shouldn’t be in the schools,” Larson said.

Third Ward Alderman Tracy Smith, a retired longtime DeKalb city police officer, said he also supports the intergovernmental agreement. However, he said he believes the school district should be held responsible if any police officers get hurt.

“I am for this – and [Police] Chief [David] Byrd knows I am,” Smith said. “I am for this, but I am going to hold the school board accountable. … You’re asking us to pull seasoned officers off the street when we’re already short and I’m hearing ‘Well, why are we putting more resource officers in the schools when you can’t?’ The guys are working hours and hours of overtime just to make things work.”

City Attorney Matt Rose said the city and the district both have to submit 90 days notice before opting out of the agreement should they decide against placing the added SROs in the school buildings.

The intergovernmental agreement outlines, among other things, a reciprocal reporting system expanding upon existing work done by District 428 and SROs to detail how things are faring in the schools.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said the city also is considering the creation of a monthly consent agenda report.

Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic questioned at what point the City Council may consider reducing the number of SROs.

Nicklas said data would be provided on the district’s SRO program’s future.

Byrd said the timeline to start interviewing prospective candidates for the two available SRO positions will begin Friday, and the training class would start in July for the new SROs to attend.

The intergovernmental agreement between District 428 and the city is for three years and takes effect beginning in the fall.