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Officers greeting students at schools prompts some concern; police asked to leave campuses

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    ALBANY, Oregon (KPTV) — When police officers were seen at Albany public schools Monday as students returned to classrooms, reactions were mixed, with some in the community expressing perspectives against the presence of law enforcement.

According to Greater Albany Public Schools Superintendent Melissa Goff, GAPS has a long-standing tradition of having members of the Albany Police Department and Albany Fire Department come to school campuses to greet students when they return to class.

During this week’s event, GAPS received reports from some students and families that seeing law enforcement at schools was anxiety-inducing.

“Recently, with the great news that our classrooms have reopened, we held our welcome event tradition once again. Clearly, the intent of everyone who participated in this event was to celebrate the return to school for our kids, and to cheer them on,” Goff said in a statement released Wednesday.

“However, there are times when our intentions don’t match up with how people perceive our actions – and especially when it comes to people in uniform, we are not always able to predict how people will feel. In this case, for some of our students and families, the presence of officers on campus created extra anxiety. After a year of being away from school, this exciting event was experienced with fear and surprise for some students, and does not reflect the trauma-informed approach we strive for in schools. Unfortunately, this turned what should have been a positive and exciting start into something different for these children, and that is not what we want for our students,” she continued.

In response to the calls of concern, Goff announced that GAPS “pushed pause on having police officers greet our students on their first day of school so that all students could feel welcome on this important day.”

She emphasized that the relationship between GAPS and APD remains positive.

APD Chief Marcia Harnden posted a statement on Facebook late Wednesday night to address the situation.

Harnden stated the concerns about officers at schools were reported by “students and families of color.”

“Our intent was to welcome you back and give you a reason to feel safe and welcome. I’m sorry if the experience was negative. I personally enjoyed the high fives I received and the stickers that I gave out. We hope there can be a time that there is no fear when the police are present and we continue to work towards that goal. I appreciate the community members who reached to share your concerns. We hear you,” wrote Harnden.

She said APD was “saddened and disappointed” when officers were asked to leave school campuses on Monday and said she did not jointly decide on that action in Goff’s request.

A rally is scheduled Friday afternoon in support of APD and AFP, according to a Facebook event page.

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