Portland Public Schools and the police department are still working to find an agreement around the use of body cameras on school resource officers, almost two months after school board members raised concerns about student privacy in a tense meeting.

“We’re having positive and forward-looking conversations on the body camera issue, primarily the ownership of the images and student privacy,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “We feel we’re making good headway, but we’re not done.”

On Nov. 13, the Portland Police Department said it would adhere to the school board’s unanimous request that body cameras not be used until the two entities could come up with an agreement around their use.

The request came after a meeting marked by conflict over ownership of the video recordings.

The school board has expressed concerns about student privacy if it is unable to retain ownership of the videos, while Police Chief Frank Clark has said the department has its own policies and procedures for maintaining video records.

The department wants to ensure it is in compliance with state and federal laws and it would be easier and less expensive for the police to maintain the videos, Clark told the board in November.


He also stressed a desire to implement use of the cameras quickly following a city decision to outfit all police officers with body cameras.

“Our SRO’s are not currently deploying with the (body cameras),” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in an email Friday, referring to school resource officers. “We continue to work with the school administration to finalize a MOU (memorandum of understanding) that seeks to address their concerns while still providing for the protection of our officers, students and staff.”

Botana said Friday the district doesn’t have a timeline for when it would like to bring the issue back to the school board other than before the end of the current school year.

That would allow for immediate revisions to be made to the current memorandum of understanding between the police department and school district, which was last updated in 2015 and typically rolls over each school year.

Going forward, Botana and school board Chairman Roberto Rodriguez said they also plan on having a broader discussion about the role of school resource officers ahead of the next school year.

The district currently has two officers, one each at Portland and Deering high schools, for a combined cost of $130,000.

“Ownership of the video is the main thing as far as what we’re talking to the police department about for language in the MOU,” Rodriguez said. “As far as the whole program goes, we want to make sure we have clarity around how SRO’s are being utilized and that there is a true distinction between school discipline issues and what is considered criminal activity.”

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