What should the role of a school resource officer entail? Group in Osceola County wants to draft a policy

First meeting was all about gathering information

A new task force is looking into school safety.
A new task force is looking into school safety.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A citizens advisory work group on Wednesday listened to presentations about the role of school resource officers tasked to serve the Osceola County School District.

The work group was formed by school board member Julius Melendez after a viral video of a school resource officer, Deputy Ethan Fournier, start circulating, showing a Liberty High School student, Taylor Bracey, being slammed to the ground.

Melendez said the incident and growing debate about school resource officers is what prompted him to form the group of community members.

“I saw the video -- right, wrong or indifferent, I cannot in good conscience look at that and do nothing, because then I’m complicit,” Melendez said.

Melendez said the Osceola County School Board does not have a school resource officer policy in place; just expectations set forth by local law enforcement agencies.

For the first meeting, the group focused on gathering information about these school resource officers.

By the end, Melendez said, the goal is to eventually draft a policy proposal that pertains to these resource officers, which would be presented to the school board.

For two hours, the newly formed group made up of retired law enforcement members, educators and community members examined and questioned existing measures.

Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff Odell gave a presentation of the role SROs play in school.

“We hear about situations that don’t look good or where the officer made a mistake, but we don’t hear about the wonderful things they are doing,” Odell said.

The viral video that initiated this charge is what Melendez used to set the stage for the discussion.

“As a school board member, I wasn’t there on campus, so I didn’t control the environment of what happened,” Melendez said. “As a school board member, I do control the policies and the training that staff do to include our SROs while they are in our campus.”

Melendez steered clear of details about the incident, which is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The work group plans to meet in two weeks to begin drafting language for a policy Melendez would like to present to the school board.

About the Author:

Nicky Zizaza is an Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 6 nightside team in December 2018. She is originally from Rwanda and she started her journalism career in the nation's capital.