CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen seeking to force the Chicago Police Department to remove officers from Chicago Public Schools hit a potentially fatal roadblock on Wednesday, as their proposed ordinance was sent to a committee where legislation the mayor opposes typically is sent to die.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) on Wednesday introduced the so-called “Police Free Schools Ordinance,” which would require CPD to terminate its $33 million contract with CPS to deploy officers in some school buildings. The measure also would prohibit the city or CPD from entering into any future agreements to provide officers at public schools.
Sawyer sought to have the proposal sent to the Public Safety Committee, but that committee’s chairman, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), asked to have it sent to the Education Committee. That triggered a City Council rule requiring the measure be sent to the Rules Committee, which is technically supposed to determine which committee should debate a contested ordinance, but historically has let proposed legislation opposed by the mayor to languish without a debate or vote.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has opposed entirely removing police officers from public schools, arguing it should be up to elected Local School Councils to decide if police should be stationed at individual schools.
“I don’t think it’s up to me to usurp the authority of the Local School Council,” she said after Wednesday’s council meeting.
But the activists who gathered outside City Hall earlier this week want money spent on police at schools to instead go to counselors, social workers, and nurses.
Tracy Occomy-Crowder, deputy director of organizing and policy at Community Organizing and Family Issues, believes LSCs need more information.
“This idea of making the decision without full information, without back-and-forth, and whole conversation, is not a good idea,” she said.
Millions of tax dollars are at stake in the push to remove police officers from inside Chicago Public Schools, but those who are pushing for the move say it’s about so much more.
The contract CPS has with the Police Department is set to expire at the end of August. Those behind the push to remove officers from schools say the $33 million CPS pays for CPD school officers can and should be used in a much more constructive way.
Dozens in favor of severing CPS’ ties with CPD spoke out in front of City Hall on Tuesday, including the ordinance’s sponsors.
“We do not need police in the schools,” Taylor said.
Sawyer said it is not an anti-police measure or an anti-security issue, but a student wellbeing issue.
Even if the ordinance were to get a debate and vote in City Council, it would face an uphill battle without the mayor’s backing. Even if a majority of the 50 aldermen support the measure, it would take at least 34 votes to override an almost certain veto.
A CPS representative said school resource officers are currently stationed in 72 of CPS’ 93 high schools. Local school councils decide if they want to keep the officers, and all 72 LSC’s did this year.
The data on how many CPS students are arrested in CPS schools are hard to come by. CPS does not differentiate between student arrests by officers in school or outside of school.
But numbers do show there were 1,758 police notifications in the 2018-2019 school year.