Negative Dynamic Forming with Police on Campus

James Hunter

At Novato High School and near campus during school hours, Novato police officers have increasingly begun a pattern of targeting students on the roads and publicly implementing punishments.   Whether it is police being involved in situations they previously were not handling or constant speed traps led by strategically-placed motorcycle officers, the presence of the local police force around campus has become heightened. This has negatively impacted many students at Novato High. 

That’s not to say that NPD doesn’t do lots of great work in and around Novato High. NHS Resource Officer Antonio Rodriguez emphasized student safety and his role as a peace-bringing officer.

“The ultimate, number one goal is safety. The reason that we are patrolling, the reason that we are on campus, is school safety,” Rodriguez said. “When you see my patrol car driving around the area close to the school, when you see our motor officers that are specifically designated for traffic violations, that is what they’re doing. They are trying to ensure the ultimate goal of safety. So that is vehicle code violations, speeding, failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, hit and run collisions, those types of incidents.”

Safety is obviously very important, but some of the motorcycle officers appear to go beyond that when pulling students over.

“Some of them are rude, and look at me like I’m a suspect to some crime I didn’t commit every time I leave my house at lunch, and they are sitting in front of my house,” said junior Lucas Hines, who has spoken with these officers at lunch. “I have even had cops come up to my house saying ‘a strong marijuana odor has been coming from this house at lunch and before school.’ I believe cops could be doing so much more for the community of Novato than to catch kids vaping on their lunch break.”

It would be expected that these officers would make a few stops during a lunch period for illegal driving infractions, such as rolling stop signs or dangerous maneuvers. What is not expected, however, is a continuous speed trap where students are constantly being pulled over and given tickets for speeding.

For many students, the police encounters end there, yet some students who might be in a little more trouble are being treated in ways not typically seen on a high school campus. 

Officer Rodriguez discussed the goal of the encounters.

“I understand that historically, not all police contacts are positive, and unfortunately that’s a reality of this job. When I took the oath and swore to protect and serve, I told myself I’d never get fat, I’d never be a jerk, and I try to keep myself to those two principles. Part of that goal of having each contact be a positive one is really difficult, because we are put in a position where we, in most cases, have to enforce the law,” Rodriguez said.

Many students have witnessed their peers on the hood of a police, handcuffed, and being searched for offenses that previously would have never extended past the disciplinary reach of the school principal. Whether an arrest is made or not, NPD has put students in disadvantageous situations with law enforcement that will undoubtedly stick with them for the rest of their lives. 

Senior Tyler Abreu had one of these interactions with NPD.

“I was put on the spot at lunch one time last year and everybody walked by and saw and that obviously made me feel like crap,” Abreu said. “I would like to see something different in their way of handling situations like that.”

That’s not to say that students shouldn’t be punished for their poor actions. Everyone must be held accountable. The problem is that it seems as if NPD has intended to turn every student into an example, publicly showing them off to the school. This can lead to a negative vision of law enforcement as a whole, which is not good for the future. 

Searching a car with multiple students and placing them in handcuffs on the front grass of the school is excessive, no matter what angle you see it. Not only does it portray an unsafe, criminal image of Novato High that isn’t true, the school office is less than 100 yards away, where students could be taken in order to prevent their identities from being publicly revealed. 

This call for change doesn’t intend to change police protocol or patrol hours, it calls for a rememberance that many of the students they will deal with are minors or new adults who are both learning the ways of the road as well as forming lifelong opinions of police presence. Constant ticketing and patrolling will not inspire or cultivate a positive association between the next generation and the police. The results of this can be seen all over the United States and have been for years.