Security chief vows no further cuts in uniformed cops at CPS high schools
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com December 17, 2012 5:34PM
Updated: January 19, 2013 6:18AM
The security chief for Chicago Public Schools vowed Monday to absorb a $5 million cut in annual security funding with no further cuts in the 153 uniformed police officers permanently assigned to high schools.
“We will not be impacting the number of full-time officers we have inside schools today,” chief safety and security officer Jadine Chou said in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.
Chou acknowledged that the school security budget has been reduced — from $18 million a year ago to $13 million this year.
Asked how she plans to absorb that $5 million cut without reducing the number of officers, “We’re still working with the police and exploring other avenues that can accomplish the same goal. Other efficiencies,” she said, refusing to reveal specifics.
“It is my charge to make the appropriate allocation changes. I’m not prepared to discuss how we will do that. But we will do it while maintaining the level of safety. That will not include reducing police presence inside the schools.”
Last year, high schools were offered $25,000 in cash for every police officer they agreed to give up in a move that CPS hoped would reduce the number of officers permanently assigned to high schools from 200 to 60. That would have freed 140 officers for street duty.
At the time, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was not certain whether every high school needed two uniformed officers stationed inside at a cost of $25 million or whether there was another, more cost-effective way to provide the same level of security.
The second look by a school system drowning in red ink was prompted by a tripling in the annual tab for police service.
“They’re asking some fundamental questions that need to be asked. Just because it was done in the past doesn’t mean it was the right way to do it or the most cost-effective way to do it,” the mayor said at the time.
“Schools are different. Student bodies are different. The officers are different. How do we achieve the level of safety I want across every school, regardless of where it is, and what is the best way to achieve it?”
All but 16 of 94 schools chose to ignore the offer and hang onto their uniformed police officers.
A dozen of the 16 schools that did go along traded only one of their uniformed police officers for an unarmed civilian security guard and kept the other uniformed cop. Only four schools let both of their police officers go.
That prompted CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley to hint at further action that might include requiring principals to dip into their individual school budgets to subsidize police officers.
“Then, we will see how much they value them,” Catalyst quoted Cawley as saying.
“In good times, it might have been something we could do. But, in these times, we have to question every expense.”
On Monday, Chou distanced herself from Cawley’s earlier threat. She also disclosed that a more “holistic approach” aimed at preventing school security problems on the front-end has produced positive results.
In-school student arrests for the most serious infractions are down 25 percent over the same period a year ago and arrests for all infractions are down 23.6 percent.
“It was a one-time thing — not an ongoing policy,” Chou said.
“There’s not a concerted effort to get rid of police officers. [But] there are some schools that are further along with a holistic safety that relies less on enforcement on the back-end approach.”
Emanuel has urged CPS to review school security plans and make certain school employees are well-versed on them in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.
On Monday, Chou disclosed that she has ordered schools to schedule three kinds of emergency drills — for fires, shelter-in-place for tornadoes and a “lockdown” drill for an active shooter in the building — as soon as possible after Christmas break.
Those drills are supposed to be held annually but some schools have not done them in conjunction with police and fire rescue teams.