Officials for Chicago Public Schools have voted to significantly reduce the budget for school resource officers.
The budget, which barely passed, reduces the budget for SRO’s from $33 million to $15 million, according to WGN-9. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced on Wednesday that in addition to budget cuts, the program will also face significant reforms. “I understand the concerns and questions that many have surrounding policing, particularly when it involves our youth,” Lightfoot said during a press conference. “We have heard you, and we have taken major steps to respond.”
Among the reforms implemented by CPS is a change to the criteria SRO’s must meet in order to be hired. Officers cannot have garnered any excessive force complaints over the last five years and cannot have a history of verbally or physically assaulting students.
“Candidates will undergo an extensive screening process ensuring their backgrounds are free of excessive force allegations and placing a premium on experiences working with young people,” Lightfoot told reporters.
The reforms also prevent SRO’s from working with federal immigration agents while on duty. They also cannot enter students’ information into the city’s “gang database,” nor can they access the database while on campus. Any complaints against officers will be sent to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, according to Jackson.
Following the death of George Floyd in May, protests took place all around the country and Chicago was no exception, with many protesters arguing that police officers should be completely removed from schools. Derion Smith, a former student at Chicago’s Mather High School, was among those who shared this sentiment.
“Everything they’re demanding today is good, but it’s not good enough,” Smith told WGN-8. “They watch us walk through the hallways like we’re criminals, it’s painful to be inside; you don’t want to be seen like that.” Smith believes that the officers should be replaced with social workers instead.
While CPS hasn’t terminated its relationship with the department, Lightfoot has said that schools have the right to determine for themselves if they still want officers on their campuses. As of now, 17 schools in Chicago have elected to remove the officers from their campuses while 55 others have chosen for them to remain.
The aforementioned Mather High School and Roberto Clemente Career Academy are among the schools that have removed resource officers from their campuses. “We simply decided the future of Clemente did not include the police in our school, as part of our approach to student safety,” Roberto Clemente Career Academy Principal Fernando Mojica told WGN-8.