By Russel Langley
A memorandum from Oak Ridge Chief of Police James Akagi to City Manger Mark Watson dated May 9, 2013, and entitled “Guiding Principles for SRO Deployment,” makes some fairly serious accusations against Oak Ridge School officials.
The memo was obtained from Oak Ridge City Council Member Trina Baughn and accompanied an open letter to Oak Ridge Schools (ORS) Superintendent Dr. Bruce Borcher written by Baughn regarding the subject.
In the memorandum Akagi accuses ORS staff of failing to report potential crimes to the ORPD in a timely manner and in some cases not at all. Criminal investigations must take precedence over ORS administrative policies and procedures, Akagi said. In some cases ORS staff have seized evidence and taken statements from victims, witnesses, and suspects without regard to legal requirements, the police chief said.
“Everything they do is useless and possibly damaging to the prosecution in a criminal case,” Akagi said regarding evidence and statements.
Communication is the primary contentious issue over the past year between ORPD and ORS Akagi said. Reluctance, and in some instances obstructive behaviors, has hampered police investigations Akagi said.
On the back of the memorandum Watson listed nine generic incidents of obstruction and one specific instance. In the specific instance two sets of parents went to The Oak Ridge High School and assaulted one another. This altercation lead to the assault of the lone School Resource Officer at the high school.
No assistance was provided by school officials according to Watson. That incident happened in the last school year.
It was also listed that ORS concerns about potential violations of the Family Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) made staff reluctant to share information. These concerns have lead to the practice that information must be cleared by higher level school officials before it can be released even to the police, according to what Watson wrote.
Watson referenced the Virginia Tech Shooting concerning the need for privacy versus safety.
“Privacy rules prevented that psychiatrist from notifying school officials that this guy was a danger,” Watson said.
Akagi and Watson want to be proactive concerning school safety. The city intends to work closely with ORS to “hammer things out” and be proactive, Watson said. An SRO is much more than a school security guard and needs to be used to their fullest potential, he argued.
Called for a response, Borcher said that he was listening and learning during his first few weeks on the job, he said during a phone interview. He admitted that he had very little knowledge of the allegations in the memo but that he had met with Watson and looked forward to a coming meeting with Akagi.
“I am very open and want to work with city officials and parents to make this the safest school district possible,” Borcher said.
Borcher was provided with a copy of the memo and agreed to make more detailed comments regarding the situation in coming days. A follow up article will be conducted next week when Borcher has had time to look into the situation.
Also Watson has not had time to respond to the question why no ORS officials were arrested for obstruction of justice and that will be included in the follow up article.
(Editor’s Note: In an attempt to provide Borcher, Akagi, Watson, and the public with accurate information, we are asking that any parents that have had trouble at the schools that relates to this article are encouraged to email Russel Langley at email@example.com. Those stories could be included in coming articles with consideration given to space restrictions.)