A federally monitored overhaul of the Chicago Police Department will take years, but some things can’t wait.
Such as the way cops treat kids in schools.
The police department says that reforms to its procedures for selecting and training the cops who work in schools — so-called school resource officers — will be covered as part of a consent decree worked out between City Hall and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, that was filed Thursday in federal court. The reforms will get underway a year from now.
But an entire school year, by then, will have passed.
We urge the police, City Hall and the Chicago Public Schools to beef up standards for school resource officers now so that they meet the recommendations of the U.S. Justice and Education departments. According to a report by City Hall’s deputy inspector general for public safety, Joseph Lipari, the police currently fall short of full compliance.
Community and civil-rights groups, according to the suggested standards, should have more of a voice when the police department develops memoranda of understanding with the school district. School officers also should be subjected to annual performance reviews.
Lipari urged other smart changes: The police should create hiring standards for school officers and work with “a broad range of community stakeholders” to develop those guidelines; define the information that will be shared between the police and school district; and keep updated rosters of school officers.
Officers in schools should be there for emergencies, to keep out trespassers and to stem potential criminal activity, not for day-to-day disciplinary action handled best by teachers, social workers, deans and principals. Without proper training for cops, students who misbehave sometimes end up in handcuffs rather than in the principal’s office.
The non-partisan Shriver Center noted in its 2017 Handcuffs in Hallways report that the city of Chicago paid out more than $2 million between 2012 and 2016 to settle legal complaints involving school officers. Almost a third of the students who were arrested by school officers had disabilities. The Chicago Reader and City Bureau last year both reported on problems with the selection and training of officers in schools.
Schools can be a great place for the Chicago police to build better relationships with the communities they serve. For that reason alone, there is no time to waste.
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September 17, 2018 at 05:05AM