(CBS) – In the wake of the Florida shooting, you may be surprised to learn there’s a proposal in Illinois that could reduce the number of police officers in schools.
Now, the man who leads chiefs of police across the state is furious.
CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley reports on the controversy.
The murder of 17 people at a Florida high school has added fuel to an Illinois debate over the presence of cops in schools.
Illinois State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester, says money that funds police in schools here could be better spent on mental health.
“What we are saying is, this is a program that we believe mental health services should take priority,” he says.
The Florida shooting suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had Instagram accounts featuring slaughtered animals and a variety of firearms. Welch also believes more cops in schools leads to unnecessary arrests of minority students.
“Many people see the presence of law enforcement as a way to continue the school-to-prison pipeline,” Welch says.
That’s a notion which irritates cops around the state.
“To say having a police officer is a detriment to the students and the school is completely outrageous,” says James Kruger of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs.
Welch is proposing a state fund for schools with discipline problems. The money couldn’t be used to pay for cops, only for mental health services and counselling.
“Most chiefs are incensed by the implications of this bill and even what it’s attempting to say, as if having police offers in the school is a bad thing,” Kruger says.
But Welch insists Florida proves “we need to invest more in mental health, and not less.”
His bill was debated in Springfield on the day of the Florida massacre. It passed out of committee and is now headed to the House floor.