With program under scrutiny, school resource officer explains role in Salem-Keizer school system

School resource officers have become a focus point in Salem as hundreds of community leaders, teachers and citizens have called for the Salem-Keizer School District to end its contracts with local law enforcement agencies for police in schools.

The push, led by Salem youth organization Latinos Unidos Siempre, follows similar actions across the country as those advocating for SROs removal say it contributes to disproportionate discipline of students of color, especially Black students.

The school board said it will meet with community this summer and make a recommendation on the future of the program at the end of August.

In this video, Keizer Police Department school resource officer David Zavala explains why he became a school resource officer and the guidance he’s provided to students.

[Keep local news alive – subscribe today]

He said those hearing about the controversy about SROs should educate themselves on what those officers do.

The Salem Police Department couldn’t provide a school resource officer for an interview following a request from Salem Reporter.

School resource officers have been in Salem schools for more than 50 years and started as a way to reduce crime and improve young people’s perception of police.

Officer David Zavala explains his role as a school resource officer at McNary High School. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)