Some officers in Portland metro area schools more equipped than others

With several shootings near local schools in the past twelve months, campus security has been a major source of discussion.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 10:58 AM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - With several shootings near local schools in the past twelve months, campus security has been a major source of discussion, and so has the presence of armed police in schools.

FOX 12 Investigates found some school resource officers (SROs) in the Portland Metro Area, are equipped with more powerful guns than others, and some school districts have no SROs whatsoever.

After FOX 12′s national affiliate team at InvestigateTV found wide irregularities across the country regarding the type of firearms school resource officers or school district police departments are allowed to carry, FOX 12 Investigates pursued same investigation on a local level.

Officer Nick Nunn has been with the Tigard Police Department for over 15 years. He is currently in his third year as a school resource officer at Tigard High School in the Tigard-Tualatin School District. Tigard-Tualatin schools resource officers are comprised of both Tigard police Tualatin police. Nunn says, he is fully certified to carry the same weapons as any other officer.

“So I carry the same weapons as any patrol officer. When I’m not working in the schools, I am out on the road, working patrol,” said Nunn. “So I have to be equipped the same way a regular patrol officer would be, just so that I can respond as an any officer in an emergency.”

Full unaired interview.

SEE ALSO: Multnomah County board votes to expand 2024 budget by $60M for homelessness, housing crisis

Both Tigard and Tualatin police departments have confirmed with FOX 12 that all their school resource officers are certified to carry the same weapons as many patrol officers on the street, which include a taser, handgun, and patrol rifle.

School districts in the Metro Area that don’t employ school resource officers at all include Portland Public Schools, Vancouver Public Schools, Gresham-Barlow, Centennial, and Salem-Keizer.

Gresham-Barlow and Centennial previously used Gresham police as SROs. Last summer, Gresham police said the city had to pull their SROs back to regular patrol duties because of staffing issues.

In Salem-Keizer, school resource officers have not been in schools since 2020, after SRO contracts were not renewed because of what the district felt were lack of law enforcement resources.

Vancouver Public Schools employs un-armed security officers called ‘district resource officers,’ according to a district spokesperson. This spokesperson says the officers are not contracted through the Vancouver Police Department or Clark County Sheriffs’ office. The district stopped employing SROs in 2021, and declined FOX 12′s request to interview one of the current district resource officers.

In Portland Public Schools, school resources officers were pulled in 2020, and after several off-campus shootings last school year, PPS made additional security changes this school year, including increasing un-armed security guards at schools across the district, and working with Portland police to have officers stationed near schools in the hopes of reducing criminal activity.

SEE ALSO: Oregon Food Bank prepares for possible government shutdown impact

But for the school districts that do employ armed SROs, it’s about being prepared for any situations, especially in a worst-case scenario where an armed intruder makes their way into the school. Officer Nick Nunn at Tigard High School says he is prepared to be the first line of defense if an armed intruder were to ever come on campus.

“I think I’m in a unique situation, being here at Tigard High School, my office is front and center,” he said. “If you walk in the front doors, my office is right there. I see pretty much everybody that comes in. So, I feel fortunate.”

The Metro Area is sadly no stranger to fatal school shootings. In 2014 at Reynolds High School, one student shot and killed another in a locker room, and injured a teacher, before turning the gun on himself. Now, Multnomah County deputies, Nick Thompson and Eric Flener, serve as school resource deputies stationed at Reynolds high, but they frequently make rounds to the other schools in Reynolds School District. They also work normal patrols in the community when school is not in session.

“We’re no different than our patrol deputies,” said Thompson. We are certified with service pistols, service rifle. I have a taser and any other auxiliary stuff that we would normally have. That’s what we carry right now or have available immediately.”

Deputy Flener feels having this equipment is important in both he and Deputy Thompson’s roles.

“We have close to 2,700 kids in the school, and then add in the other schools, it’s a small town, basically,” said Flener. “It’s one of those things that as a patrol officer, you get ready for work, you have all this gear on because you’re ready for whatever is going to happen.”

In regards to other large local school districts, FOX 12 Investigates found that Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts also employ SROs through local law enforcement departments, and those officers are equipped to carry rifles and handguns like officers who are out on patrol.