The Norman Police Department has been awarded a $500,000 grant to support its school resource officer program, but it will be up to the city council to formally accept the funds.
NPD spokesperson Brent Barbour said the city has received requested grant funds to support its SRO program, but that the funding must be approved by the Norman City Council, a process that could take a few weeks.
The NPD submitted its grant application on March 10, 2020 to the Community Oriented Policing Services Office and requested $500,000 in grant funding over a three-year period.
The grant requires a $522,915 local match for the hiring of four additional sworn career law enforcement officers specifically to fulfill the implementation of the School Resource Officer Program described in the Public Safety Sales Tax. Nine of the 13 SROs have been filled.
The PSST was first approved by voters in 2008 and was made permanent by 2015. According to city documents, the fund pays for 71 public safety personnel, 41 police and 30 fire and 13 SROs, and was to be used for the construction of capital improvement projects such as the emergency communication system and an emergency operations facility.
“This grant would allow the assignment of four SROs to rotate between the fifteen elementary schools in Norman with the intent of having a greater positive impact on children by breaking the cycles that marginalize youth,” Barbour said. “This award would assist in the fulfillment of the implementation of the SRO program described in the 2014 Public Safety Sales Tax. Any needed details regarding that process or the cost sharing with the school would be an ongoing conversation between the city and the schools.”
Following weeks of protests against racial bias and brutality in police departments across the nation, the city council heard from a former Norman middle school student who claimed officers slammed students to the ground and that she was questioned and handcuffed without her parents permission following a fight with a bully.
Dozens of other protesters demanded the city shut down its SRO program and reduce police spending, including spending in the voter-approved PSST fund, which pays for SROs. In response to those demands, the council cut $865,000 during its June 16 meeting from the NPD’s 3.14% proposed budget increase, a decision that has left nine NPD positions unfilled. Outgoing Ward 2 Councilman Joe Carter voted against the budget amendment item. Ward 6 Councilman Bill Scanlon said he voted for the measure in error.
Mayor Breea Clark said she could not be sure how the new council will vote on the funds following the June 30 election cycle. Ward 2 David Perry, Ward 6 Elizabeth Foreman and Ward 8 Matthew Peacock will be sworn in on Tuesday, July 7.
“We will have three new council members in less than a week,” she said, “so, it’s hard to predict what will happen.”