CHICAGO — The city’s public school district is cutting its campus police budget by more than half after 17 schools voted recently to get rid of school resource officers.
And reforms are coming for the 55 schools that will keep on-campus police this academic year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday.
“… Our commitment to giving our children an engaging, nurturing and, above all else, safe environment has never wavered and never will,” Lightfoot said at a press conference.
Lightfoot and Janice Jackson, Chicago Public Schools CEO, said police officers will now only be eligible to work at schools if they have an “excellent” record.
To fit that bill, officers can’t have had a sustained complaint about excessive use of force within the past five years, can’t have had a sustained complaint that “directly relates to a verbal or physical interaction” with young people, and can’t have an open complaint where there’s a “reasonable probability” the officer will be disciplined for excessive force or a verbal or physical interaction with a young person, according to a CPS press release.
The police department’s chief of bureau operations will also interview all campus police candidates, verify they’re eligible and vet them, officials said. Principals can interview the candidates if they want.
That’s “one of the strengths” of the reforms, Lightfoot said, as the chief will now be “owning responsibility” for the program within the police department.
“I think that, that addresses a level of credibility and ownership for making sure the partnership between CPS and CPD is held at the appropriate level within CPD,” Lightfoot said.
On-campus police will also no longer be allowed to enter information into the police department’s Criminal Enterprise Information System — a database that’s been highly criticized. On-campus terminals where officers were once able to look at and enter information in the database have been removed from schools.
The district’s security chief, Jadine Chou, will meet with police every two weeks to review the program. Chou said they will talk about any complaints against school resource officers during those meetings.
And CPS will send complaints about school resource officers to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct, to ensure they’re investigated and resolved. In the past, the complaints might have been sent to a local police district commander or other figure, Chou said.
The changes come amid calls to reform and defund police departments across the United States.
There have been numerous protests in Chicago, with students and adults saying police should be removed from Chicago’s public schools.
Lightfoot and Jackson refused to make a call on that issue, instead asking local schools to vote to decide if they’d keep on-campus officers. Seventeen voted to remove them while 55 opted to keep them.
The district plans to spend about $12 million on school resource officers in Fiscal Year 2021 — a $21 million decrease from what was budgeted the prior year.
The district had originally planned to spend about $15 million on the school resource officer program this year, but it will be able to able to save $3 million because of the 17 schools that opted to remove officers.
In prior years, the program has been far costlier, costing about $33 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
The costs fell for this year because the district won’t pay for days when there is not in-person instruction — and CPS is set to be all-remote for at least the fall quarter. CPS will also get credit for days when students learned from home during the 2019-2020 school year. Schools were closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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