For the first time, a $33 million agreement between the Chicago district and the city Police Department will detail the scope of officers’ work in schools, with the condition that the officers won’t be involved in any school disciplinary actions.
Chicago’s school police program has come under massive scrutiny from the federal government and Chicago inspector general for its failure to adequately vet or train officers working in schools, or to place appropriate guidelines for hiring or disciplining officers.
The changes were preceded by a one-year plan as part of a federal consent decree overseeing the city’s troubled police department that was launched after the alleged cover-up of the fatal shooting of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald.
Before the agreement, there were no clear hiring requirements for officers stationed at the city’s public schools, no standard youth-specific training, and no dedicated way for school leaders to be involved in choosing officers for their schools.
The agreement also outlines rules for how officers will be paid, their responsibilities, and the reporting of arrests on school grounds. The agreement would last for one year, but could be renewed twice. The proposals will be voted on at Wednesday’s board meeting, which starts at 10:30 a.m. at 42 W. Madison St.
Although the district thinks the guidelines are a step in the right direction, youth advocates say any police presence in schools can increase the chances of arrest for minor offenses.
“Schools should be a safe place, not a pipeline to prison,” said Eve Stiles with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, an activist group that helped pass legislation to limit school suspensions.
Here is what the agreement outlines:
- An officer can intervene if there is a call for help or concerns about a possible crime. But the agreement prohibits school police officers from engaging in “school disciplinary actions.”
- Earlier this summer, the city trained all of its school police officers for the first time in a decade. Moving forward, all officers who serve in schools will have to participate in this training.
- Principals will play a role in selecting school officers. In the past, district commanders determined where school police officers were assigned.
- Chicago police officers will be stationed in offices inside schools where they can connect to police district computer networks. That may concern some advocates who are concerned that students who interact with police in schools could be entered onto a database that critics allege often wrongly profiles people as gang members, and overwhelmingly targets black and Latino youth.
- The police department will maintain daily reports on any crimes or arrests at schools, and send monthly incident reports to Jadine Chou, the head of safety and security in the district.
- Officers will work for the Chicago Police Department, but their salaries will be paid by the district.
Earlier this month, the district asked the Local School Councils to vote on whether to keep officers in their schools. A handful of community groups, concerned that the requests were rushed, will hold a press conference protesting the decision before the board meeting begins.