Community Members Oppose More Police in Pittsfield Schools

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Community members spoke out against the recent addition of more student resource officers in Pittsfield schools at City Council on Tuesday.

Superintendent Joseph Curtis announced last week that two additional school resource officers had been assigned to the district's middle and high schools. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are stationed on a school campus.

The residents speaking at council on Tuesday called for alternatives to policing in schools and cited the death of Miguel Estrella as an incident where the authorities' response to a mental health crisis ended in tragedy.

Over the weekend, Estrella's family marked the year anniversary of his passing in Persip Park.

"As we continue to look at and hope for our future generations of students and as they grow into their future, I hope that they don't encounter police officers that, in their moment of crisis, think that it's appropriate to fire and shoot," said Helen Moon, a former city councilor. 

"I hope that as people are struggling in our community that the city can step up and continue to or start to provide resources. It's, I think, incredibly emotional to be up here because it's been one year, and similar to George Floyd's death, a lot of politicians stood up and said, ‘I'm ready to do this, let's fight racial injustice.' A year ago so many of you said, 'Let's do this, let's find the resources, let's work together,' and one year later we are here wondering where that energy and where that effort is."

Estrella's sister, Elina Estrella, told the council that police assigned to school buildings often don't receive the necessary specialized training in adolescent development, racial equality, restorative justice, or strategies for de-escalation.

"Research does not show the increased presence of law enforcement makes schools safer. Instead, research shows that the mere presence of police officers in schools increases the likelihood that a student will be referred to law enforcement for adolescent behavior. School-based arrests, which fall more harshly on students of color, put students in direct contact with the justice system," she said.

The message that students of color internalize when officers guard the school entrance and roam the halls is 'You're not welcome here,' and the building where you learn presumes that you will engage in disruptive and criminal activity."

She added that this creates anxiety, hypervigilance, and distrust in the educational institution and can re-traumatize students.

"We need to invest in what we know works. Student behavior is positively impacted by teaching competencies, providing access to mental health professionals, and creating positive school climates. Pittsfield police have clearly shown that they already don't know how to use the resources they already have and continue to receive. In Massachusetts alone, it takes 20 weeks to become a police officer and most of it actually spend on target shooting," Estrella said.

"It takes 1,300 hours for someone to become a licensed barber with an apprenticeship. If they're going to be implemented in our schools, they should be properly trained and tested, and licensed. If we want to provide resources for students you should consider allocating funds to mental health specialists, hiring counselors, staff support resources, to help students thrive. Especially students in crisis."

Last year, community members gathered at Park Square for a vigil to honor Estrella and were asked to write who makes them feel safe on an index card. Meg Bossong on Invest in Pittsfield pointed out that the Police Department was not one of the responses.

"Every time this community has called out for resources and called out for solutions and called out for creativity, we have answered them with more policing," she said. "More policing in schools, more money in the budget, more equipment for the police department, and we never seem to get around to investing in the things that this community wants."

Earlier in the evening, the Taconic boys basketball team was celebrated for winning the Division 5 State Championship game earlier this month.

"We can't celebrate and honor a group of predominantly students of color when they win us a high school basketball championship and then turn around and ignore them when they tell you what they need in their school system," Bossong said.

Invest in Pittsfield is part of a coalition of groups advocating for transparency and equity in policing.  Representatives of Roots and Dreams and Mustards Seeds, who are also a part of the effort, took the microphone as well.

Nicole Fecteau highlighted the importance of looking at a comprehensive way to be trauma-informed in schools, which could include alternatives to policing.

"If we had people trained in alternatives to policing we might be able to have them enter the school system without weapons," she said.

"Which I think would be such a positive thing."

Tags: community policing,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at

Municipal Aggregation in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield reminds residents and business owners that they are eligible to sign up for a lower rate of electricity by joining the city's Municipal Aggregation Program.
Since the launch of this program in 2018 by Mayor Tyer's administration, residents have collectively saved approximately $8,390,000 and businesses have saved approximately $5,076,000 for a total savings of $13,466,000.
Dynegy Energy Services is the supplier of electricity as part of the Community Power Supply Program and offer a fixed rate of $.09603 per kWh for basic service. This rate is valid through January of 2024 and residents can opt in and opt out at any point, at no charge, during the term of the program.
To opt-in this program, residents and businesses can call Dynegy Energy Services at (866) 220-5696 and ask to enroll in the city's program or visit:
View Full Story

More Pittsfield Stories