Beginning in the fall of 2022, the Bellevue School District (BSD), in partnership with the City of Bellevue — Bellevue Police Department (BPD), will launch its new Community Engagement Officer Program. The new program is a renewed and reformed iteration of the School Resource Officer Program. The name, mission, and role have been changed to reflect that of mentor, guardian, and educator. The program is designed to build relationships with students, families, district staff, and the community by providing information and resources as support services — focusing on keeping students out of the criminal justice system.
Community Engagement Officers (CEOs) are positions for experienced law enforcement professionals who will provide safety, support, and resources for BSD students in schools. This role is re-designed to help provide a safe environment, offer collaborative problem solving, and build relationships with students, families, and the broader school community. The officers will work to make positive contributions to the school community and overall school safety and foster trusting relationships between youth and law enforcement. CEOs will contribute to School Safety Teams, focus on empowering students, and be specifically trained to work with youth and families.
Director of BSD Security Doug James shared what the partnership represents for the BSD community, “Safety is built on trust and positive relationships, including those between faculty, school administrators, students, parents, and law enforcement. The Community Engagement Officer Program will develop collaborative problem-solving strategies to resolve issues affecting our youth and help every child reach their full potential.”
Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis said of the partnership with the City of Bellevue and the district, “We [the school district] rely on us working together to ensure our families are connected to community resources so our youth can have more positive interactions with law enforcement that only come with understanding, collaboration, and mutual respect.”
When BSD schools shifted to remote learning in March 2020, School Resource Officers (SROs) assigned to BSD returned to regular patrol duties in the community. Shortly after that, in response to the death of individuals at the hands of law enforcement, the Washington State Legislature passed laws requiring changes to SRO Programs in K-12 settings. This included specialized training for assigned officers and a yearly review of any implemented program.
An Advisory Committee was established in October of 2020, and the BSD community began to examine the role of law enforcement in our schools critically. The Advisory Committee produced two options, and Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis chose Option 1 – Reform. A Design Task Force was then formed to develop a new program model, which subsequently led to the establishment of the Community Engagement Officer (CEO) role. Read more here.