Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A question that is bedeviling Chicago police is how to assign officers at Chicago Public Schools – where are they needed most?
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, some cops are being pulled out of school buildings to focus on safety outside the schools.
Even though ensuring the safety of Chicago Public Schools students is one of the mayor’s top priorities, authorities have concluded that assigning on-duty officers to public high school hallways is not always the right strategy.
For example, at Westinghouse College Prep on the West Side, three CPS security officers, who keep students moving at dismissal and enforce the code of conduct, are aided by two uniformed Chicago police officers inside.
Not for much longer, though.
Dr. Greg Jones, the assistant principal at Westinghouse, said the school is losing one of those police officers.
“Westinghouse is a school that is transitioning from two police officers in the building to one, which provides us with resources in the afternoon to provide for security for beyond curriculum programs,” he said.
That extra security in the afternoon would be provided by off-duty police officers, rather than on-duty officers.
Right now, there are 164 Chicago police officers assigned inside Chicago public schools. By the end of the year, there will be 144.
“I’m not a big proponent of having cops in schools,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. “The school environment should not be subject to police being in the schools. It really shouldn’t be. The area around the school, to me, it’s my job to get the kids in and out of school safely. Once they get into school somebody else should be in control of what’s happening.”
Police are usually outside inner city schools when classes are dismissed. There are just a few at some schools, like Westinghouse, where violence involving students is relatively rare. There are a lot more at some other schools – in Englewood, for example, where there’s a bigger problem.
But McCarthy said officers should be on the streets outside of the schools, not inside the buildings.
“Cops in schools should be there to prevent crime,” McCarthy said. “I think discipline within the schools becomes the responsibility of the school principal. So, if they’re being used for something other than crime, they should probably not be in the school. They should probably be on the perimeter where the crime is more likely to happen.”
Beat cops argue that officers inside schools often gain trust and build relationships with students, who tip them off when trouble is brewing.
So this is not as cut and dried as it appears, but neither McCarthy nor CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard makes many moves without checking with the mayor. This one had to have his stamp of approval.