CPS to pay police $13 million a year for high school security

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The Chicago Police Department would get $13 million in annual compensation from the Chicago Public Schools for the 152 police officers currently assigned to high schools, under an agreement quietly introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The pricetag reflects an increase from the $8 million CPS had been paying up to 2011 and a reduction from the amount that Emanuel imposed when he took office that year. 

Police department spokesman Adam Collins said the intergovernmental agreement introduced by the mayor at last week’s City Council meeting  “covers the costs of a range of CPD services and is not specific to only the number of officers assigned to” high schools.

“It also encompasses other efforts to ensure safety, such as roving sergeants and other response needs,” Collins said in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 152 officers work at the city’s 106 public high schools full-time, Collins said.

From 2009-2011, CPS paid the police department $8 million annually to station two police offices at every high school for the eight-hour school day. That broke down to roughly $80,000 per school.

Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley called it a “sweet deal” that did not reflect the actual cost of police services and supervision that, for years, approached $25 million or roughly $250,000 per high school.

Shortly after taking office, Emanuel stripped teachers of a previously negotiated, 4 percent pay raise and used the $80 million in savings to pay the Chicago Police Department retroactively, going back to 2009.

That helped the mayor solve the city’s budget crisis because it was roughly $70 million more than CPS had originally agreed to reimburse the city for police services in schools.

“It’s the right thing to do. We owe them,” Cawley said at the time.

The increase in costs prompted CPS to more closely examine whether it needed two police officers in every high school all day long.

“My guess is, we don’t. . . . We hope to reduce our expenses in that area, but only in those schools where we can do that without compromising safety,” Cawley said then.

CPS subsequently offered high school principals a $25,000 bounty for every police officer they agreed to give up to cut costs and free up sorely needed police officers for street duty.

But, the lure of quick cash was trumped by concerns about school safety. Cawley had hoped to entice 70 percent of high schools to grab the offer. But, only four principals agreed to give up both officers while a dozen schools gave up one officer.

That forced CPS to cut costs in a different way — by managing police officers more closely and by refusing to pay them during summer and mid-school year vacation breaks.

At the time, Cawley also warned that principals might be required to dip into school budgets to cover at least a portion of future police costs.

“Then, we will see how much they value them,” he said then.

Cawley could not be reached for comment on the new agreement, which runs through Dec. 31, 2015 with a pair of one-year renewal options. But in a an emailed statement Monday, CPS spokesman Joel Hood wrote: “The safety and security of students is one of CPS’ top priorities, and the District makes investments each year to ensure that students are in positive learning environments and safe. CPS continually works with Chicago Police, school leaders and the community to determine the appropriate security needs at each school.” 

It once again calls for uniformed officers to be stationed in high school rooms outfitted with “computer terminals connected to the CPD network for the purpose of processing juvenile offenders apprehended” in schools and to maintain “daily reports on all crimes and arrests” committed at high schools.

CPS maintains the right to audit police records to verify billings and to terminate the agreement “without penalty” if there are “not sufficient appropriated funds” to meet security costs.

“The [police] superintendent will have discretionary authority to shift resources and activity to meet the needs of the city as a whole,” the agreement states.

“A comprehensive list [of schools] shall be provided . . . once in September of each year and once in January. . . . Staffing should be done in a manner to avoid overtime costs to CPS. . . . The number of CPD officers may vary from time to time for reasons including, but not limited to, availability of a sufficient number of CPD officers and equipment and for reasons of public safety and convenience.”

The agreement further states that the Chicago Board of Education “shall have the right, upon 30 days written notice, unilaterally to reduce services which may include the number of CPS schools receiving services from CPD; the number of officers at a specific CPS school.”

Uniformed officers assigned to high schools are supposed to provide a “presence” — especially at arrival and departure times.  They also can help with weapons screenings, provide a quick response to confrontations between students and keep an eye on gang conflicts outside the school that might create problems inside the building or vice versa.

But, principals interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times have talked of inconsistencies among officers, with some proactively mentoring students, mediating disputes and walking the halls while others literally remained holed up in the computer room “unless there is a riot.”

“That’s an awful lot of down time,” said one principal, who asked to remain anonymous.

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