The Chicago School Board is set to decide this week whether to spend $10.2 million on a new deal with the Chicago Police Department, keeping uniformed officers in schools that need them for at least a year. .
The policing program at CPS has undergone major changes in the past two years after widespread protests called for the removal of officers from schools – and the scrutiny has eased as that pressure has lead to reform.
Students and activists have long said that black and Latino children are being over-policed for routine disagreements and teenage behavior. Children are then sent from the classroom to the criminal justice system, which research has shown leads to poorer outcomes in school and in life.
Five community organizations that were part of the movement to end the school-to-jail pipeline at CPS partnered with the district to establish a process through which school communities could develop police alternatives. The number of officers assigned to CPS schools has since been reduced by more than a third, their role has been significantly reduced, and CPS payments to CPD have fallen from $33 million in 2020.
Nevertheless, the practice of CPS, a city agency, paying another for its services is still controversial, regardless of the cost. The deal covers officers’ salaries and “benefits” for 176 school days. The district has come under fire in recent years for funding cop salaries year-round.
CPS spokeswoman Mary Fergus said “there has been no discussion of CPD funding” the program.
Meanwhile, the shift from punitive to restorative justice — away from arrests and suspensions toward conversations and peace circles — is a work in progress. The Sun-Times and WBEZ reviewed this work in progress earlier this summer, with schools reporting mixed results.
Last year, schools reallocated $3.2 million to policing alternatives such as deans, security guards and mental health programs, and more money is expected to be allocated to those efforts this year.
A total of 41 of the 91 CPS schools still had cops last school year, and their local school boards voted last month on whether to keep them in the fall. One school opted to retire both officers, while 17 will continue with two full-time cops and 23 will have just one.
District officials are asking the school board to vote at its monthly meeting on Wednesday to renew the DPC contract for one year to the tune of $10,166,587. The agreement would run from early September to late August 2023, and CPS and CPD would have two one-year renewal options.
Officers will be selected for placement in schools and must have an “excellent disciplinary history”. Directors will have the right to reject an officer and request other candidates. And cops must undergo CPS training in restorative practices; interaction with students with disabilities and special education; youth crisis intervention; implicit racial bias; and more.
Cops are not supposed to get involved in disciplining students, according to new rules established last year. They are only intended to respond to emergency situations that put students and staff at risk, such as an active shooter incident.