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City Inspector General Says Aldermen 'Asleep On The Job' After Failing To Call Hearings On School Police

The City of Chicago Inspector General is blasting aldermen for not holding hearings more than six months after his office released a report identifying problems with school-based police officers, including the lack of directives on how officers are selected, trained and evaluated.

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Chicago Public Schools headquarters on June 27, 2018 (WBEZ/Bill Healy)

The City of Chicago Inspector General is blasting aldermen for not holding hearings more than six months after his office released a report identifying problems with school-based police officers, including the lack of directives on how officers are selected, trained and evaluated.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson said hearings might have prevented a troubling incident recently in which a taser was used on a student at Marshall High School. That student filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday pointing to the inspector general’s report as evidence that school-based police officers lack proper training.

“The city council has fallen asleep on the job or simply abdicated its responsibility around a very important issue for which we have an unfortunate incident that ensued,” Ferguson said.

In response to the inspector general’s report, 20 aldermen signed a letter asking the council’s public safety committee to hold a hearing. Ferguson said this letter should have triggered the hearing.

He said such a hearing would have given the city council a chance to press Chicago Public Schools and police department officials to make immediate changes. Also, he said the city council could play a role in making those changes happen.

“The city council is supposed to be a partner in all of that and is supposed to help make sure the resources and the support is there to fix the problems once they have been identified,” Ferguson said. “None of that is happening.”

Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward), chairman of the public safety committee, did not respond to questions about why he has not called a hearing. “At this time, we have a meeting scheduled with some of the agencies involved along with aldermen to further the discussion of school resource officers,” his office said in an email to WBEZ.

Alderman Harry Osterman (48th Ward), who is on the committee, said he doesn’t know why the hearing has been delayed, but said he believes it will eventually happen.

When the inspector general’s report came out, Chicago Public Schools said the Chicago Police Department has committed to providing specialized training for officers in schools as part of the recently approved federal consent decree that requires the department to undertake reforms.

Also as part of the consent decree, the police department and the school district are implementing a memorandum of understanding about the roles and responsibilities of school-based police.

But Ferguson said the consent decree won’t be fully implemented for two years and that the city council, as well as the police and school district, should make changes before then.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

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