By Shiloah Coley and Ellie Colbert
The continuation of the Educational Resource Officer program in Madison city high schools has caused controversy with some parents, community members and students who believe the cops pose a threat to black and brown students. Shiloah Coley has the story on one officer’s transition from having a negative view of police to becoming an ERO.
“I’ve been shot at by the police as a 13- year-old, just getting off of a bus.”
Outcue: … just getting off a bus.”
This was one of Tray Turner’s first interactions with a cop as a teenager in Milwaukee. He was left with a negative perception on what police were and what they did.
After joining the military, his perspective changed.
I clearly learned that’s definitely not the way it should be, so that’s kinda what inspired me to do what I could to change that narrative.”
Outcue: … to change that narrative.”
Turner retired from the military and joined the police force in 2013.
“It was a pretty active moment of police violence and I wanted to see if I could change the narrative and be a better example.”
Outcue: … a better example.”
For Turner, the opportunity to change the narrative came in the role of an Education Resource Officer, or an ERO, at James Madison Memorial High School on Madison’s West side.
(NATSOT: cafeteria/passing time)
“I’m gonna go to the cafeteria, it’s one of the main passing areas for people to pass through there, and I just kind of stand here, present a presence so that people get used to seeing me.”
Outcue: … to seeing me”
Every day is different for Turner.
Some days, he gives out tickets and makes arrests.
“Taking a kid out of school in handcuffs is a very bad day and and h-how like I said, last year, that happened four times, and it happened three times this year but still, that’s a rare occurrence, and that’s not what we’re doing here.” (48:13)
Outcue: … we’re doing here”
Yesterday, he had a student on home-supervision cut off their ankle bracelet.
“I do a lot of mentoring and counseling so I brought this kid in and said hey I got your bracelet, I spent about an hour with him. We can have the police ya know handcuff you and take you to juvenile reception. I spent an hour explaining to him that it’s best if he adheres to his home detention policies and rules.” (8:32)
Outcue: … detention policies and rules.”
Not all days are like this, though. Some of his interactions with students put a smile on his face.
“So we have a big basketball game tonight, its Sun Prairie, and I’ll actually work that as well. I get to see all the basketball players all dressed up, I get excited.”
Outcue: … I get excited.”
Turner is aware of the very vocal conversation in the community about the future of EROs and their role in schools.
A lot of people I feel like believe that the school resource officers are in the buildings to promogate the negative interactions and continually force black and brown kids into the criminal justice system.
Outcue:…criminal justice system.”
Statistics show that the majority of arrests and citations in the Madison high schools between 2012 and 2016 involved Black youth, according to the district’s Educational Resource Officer Report.
Yet, Turner still believes his absence would negatively impact some of those students.
I think the only individuals who would lose if police officers were not here are the individual students with whom we establish relationships.
Outcue: …. will function just fine”
Turner has enjoyed his transition from patrolling the streets to working with students.
If you’re working with somebody who’s older, and a lot of times with officers we work with people at their worst times, it just doesn’t feel like there’s as much light in their eye, that ambition to do better and bigger things. I don’t know kids just are more inspiring, and it keeps me more inspired when I work with people that way.”
Outcue: …people that way”
Turner will return to working the night shift as a cop when his time as an ERO comes to a close in a couple years. Until then, he’s enjoying his job at the school with the kids. I’m Shiloah Coley reporting.
RUN TIME: 2:59