Chicago Police Department officers are working in 75 Chicago Public Schools without specific or sufficient training on dealing with young people — and neither agency keeps track of which officers are working where, the city’s inspector general has found.
Schools and police officials must also hammer out a current agreement outlining the roles and responsibilities of such “school resource officers,” emphasizing that school officers should not get involved in routine student disciplinary matters, Deputy Inspector General Joseph Lipari wrote in a letter introducing the 44-page report published Thursday. The last such agreement expired at the end of 2016, leaving no legal framework in place.
“OIG has concluded that CPD’s recruitment, selection, placement, training, specification of roles and responsibilities, and evaluations of its SROs assigned to CPS are not sufficient to ensure officers working in schools can successfully execute their specialized duties,” Lipari wrote to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council.
Neither agency could provide a current, accurate list of which officers are assigned to which schools.
Problems with how officers were selected to work in schools, as well as their lack of training, were outlined in a 2017 story by the Chicago Reader. The Shriver Center also found in its 2017 Handcuffs in Hallways report that more than $2 million in settlement payments were made in Chicago between 2012 and 2016 incidents involving school officers that in 2013 and 2014, nearly a third of students placed under arrest had disabilities.
CPD officials have since agreed to a number of the recommended reforms that police will implement next year as part of a consent decree filed Thursday in federal court, including signing an agreement between CPS and CPD spelling out roles and responsibilities of officers in schools.
“This is why we crafted a specific section into the federal consent decree,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an email. “In short, School Resource Officers will obtain specialized training focusing on national best practices for dealing with youth. The training will also center around improved crisis-intervention training, cultural diversity, and incident de-escalation.”
But the inspector general’s office called for immediate changes, and pointed out that police wouldn’t agree to all of their proposed reforms, including establishing performance evaluations and defining the data and information that will be shared between the agencies.
“CPD’s failure to act more expeditiously to implement the reforms prior to the next school year leaves students, teachers, parents, and community stakeholders in the current school year without the protections and assurances of a school safety program that is aligned with national best practices,” Lipari wrote.
In an emailed statement, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said only 75 schools, all of them high schools, currently have assigned full-time police officers, down from 97 in 2010, but wouldn’t say how many officers worked in and around those buildings. She also said that CPS has bumped up training for its principals on law enforcement’s role in their buildings and changed its Student Code of Conduct to emphasize restorative practices rather than punitive ones.
“Training sessions have reinforced that police notifications should only be made in situations that are criminal in nature and/or involve serious safety threats to the school, students or staff,” Bolton wrote.
The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, one of the grassroots groups long critical of police officers in schools, wants police out of the schools until the effects of their presence is studied. They also want officers replaced with social workers.
“School should be a safe and welcoming place for all students and their parents,” the organization said in a press release. “They should not expose students to detrimental interactions with the criminal justice system.”
Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey blasted the “frightening lack of mayoral oversight, transparency and accountability on student safety,” and the “fundamental defects in how the mayor and CPS spend precious public resources.”
Taxpayers have spent about $13 million a year to pay for school police “yet they have no specialized training, no clear standards, no oversight and zero accountability.”
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