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Report Questions Training, Screening of Police in Chicago Schools

(TNS) – Chicago police officers assigned to the city’s public schools lack proper training, face little accountability and often have been the subject of citizen complaints to the city’s police review agency, according to a report released Tuesday by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

The report also found that officers assigned to Chicago Public Schools last year accumulated more than $2 million in misconduct settlements for actions that occurred on and off school grounds between 2012 and 2016.

Amid ongoing concerns from the federal government and civil rights advocates over the role of police in schools, the Shriver center’s conclusions add to the examination of the use of force against juveniles by law enforcement that were detailed in the scathing report on the Chicago Police Department released in January by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The center’s report concludes that officers should not be permanently assigned to schools, while calling on CPS to collaborate with community groups to formalize the city’s school resource officer program.

“If police are going to continue to be in our schools, their role must be viewed as a resource and not as a response to address behavior which can be handled by school administrators,” Jennifer Riley-Collins, the center’s vice president of advocacy, said on Tuesday.

The city has described the police presence in schools as an important component of a broader safety strategy. A school district spokesman on Tuesday said CPS has reduced the number of police officers and security personnel at schools.

The district has also revised its student conduct code in an effort to cut down on suspensions, expulsions and discipline-related police calls.

“We appreciate the recommendations brought forward by the Shriver Center, and we will seriously consider all potential opportunities to maintain our safe school environments while further strengthening school climates,” CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement.

A police spokesman said questions on the report were being handled by CPS.

The use of cameras, metal detectors, security guards and police officers in city schools grew under former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration as part of a renewed focus on school security.

The 2013 school closings and the high-profile 2009 beating death of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert are among issues that have forged a closer relationship between the police and the school district. It has been an expensive partnership for CPS. The district paid more than $100 million to the department since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office. In 2015, the city said it would pick up the cost of officer patrols in schools.

The Shriver center report argues “it’s time to rethink the role of these law enforcement officers” in ensuring safety and security for schoolchildren.

“School is a setting that children are required to attend every day, and at this time they’re at a very impressionable stage,” said Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley, a Shriver staff attorney and the report’s lead author. “And it’s scary to think that they’re interfacing with officers that do not know how to engage with them in a positive manner. That further destroys the youth and police relations within this city.”

Of the 248 police officers assigned to CPS in April 2016, 67 percent had complaints lodged against them with the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, according to a Shriver center review of disciplinary and staffing records.

An additional 31 percent of the officers had three or more complaints filed with IPRA, and 11 percent of those officers had 10 or more complaints.

A Shriver center review of legal settlements also concluded those officers accumulated slightly more than $2 million in legal settlements — close to $1.5 million of that total was from an excessive use of force case involving a minor and $215,000 from incidents that occurred on school grounds, the center said.

“It tells me that there’s been very little screening put in place when assigning the officers to Chicago Public Schools,” Mbekeani-Wiley said. “It can be fatal to not have a robust screening process prior to establishing a school resource officer program.”


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