Today's Question: What should the future of school resource officers be in Columbia Public Schools?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | 11:36 a.m. CDT

Last October, an incident at Hickman High School brought school resource officers to the forefront of Columbia's collective consciousness.

School Resource Officer Mark Brotemarkle was accused of using excessive force to break up a fight between students. A video of the incident appeared on YouTube.

Student Diamond Thrower, who was trying to break up the fight, missed school with injuries after Brotemarkle flung her to the ground.

Brotemarkle was later cleared of all charges. But some community members were unhappy with the process, protesting his return to the school.

Now, a group is revising the contract between the schools and the Police Department, mainly for financial reasons.

When the current contract was drafted, in 2000, there were two officers, one at Hickman and one at Rock Bridge High School. The school district paid for 75 percent of the program.

As the program expanded from two officers to eight, the cost to the schools never increased. Now, the police department is asking the school district to increase its contribution to the program from $66,300 to $189,500 annually.

The school board is facing a $3.2 million deficit, but the increase in cost for officers was reportedly factored into the board's projections.

The new contract also includes provisions that will give the school district more control over the resource officers.

Under the proposed contract, the Police Department would take the schools' evaluations of the officers into consideration when conducting its own annual performance evaluations. The previous contract gave the schools only "advisory" input. Columbia schools would be allowed to provide diversity training for the officers.

Should any other changes be considered in the agreement between the police and Columbia Public Schools?

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