DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines Public Schools’ decision to end its contract with the Des Moines Police Department when it comes to school resource officers has led to unexpected challenges, including the first football Friday of the school year.
As teams gear up to play under the Friday night lights, the district is working on its game plan to keep things safe and orderly.
“We’ll be working with the police department,” Phil Roeder, director of communications for Des Moines Public Schools said. “Our ADs [activities directors] will be working with them to help determine just exactly what the right need is and then, you know, do their best to cover things.”
It will be different from previous years when the school resource officers assigned to each high school would work the football game and be assisted by off-duty officers, some games having three or four.
Now the officers you see will all be off-duty, something the school district will pay for.
DMPS notes the police presence is helpful for controlling crowds, directing traffic, and dealing with safety matters. Such was the case in 2018 when gunshots rang out at the Hoover High School homecoming game.
“There have been incidents in the past where you’ve definitely needed a police response,” Sgt. Paul Parizek with DMPD said. “Having a cop there is going to expedite our ability to address any issues, and there’s also that piece that’s a deterrent. I mean people truly are less likely to commit a crime if there’s a police officer standing there.”
At a time when staffing is already a concern, the police department says it will make an effort to have officers available while the school district says it will continue to collaborate.
“We don’t anticipate being in a situation where there’s no presence,” Roeder said, “but, you know, if it gets to be a situation like that we’re just gonna have to work with the police department to see what alternatives there might be.”
Roeder said DMPS also has its own public safety staff that will provide support as needed.