New Report: School Police Target Of Misconduct Complaints

File photo of a parked Chicago police SUV.
Paula Friedrich / WBEZ
File photo of a parked Chicago police SUV.
Paula Friedrich / WBEZ

New Report: School Police Target Of Misconduct Complaints

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About 11 percent of the 250 Chicago police officers that patrol the city’s public schools were cited for misconduct 10 or more times, for a total of about 280 complaints, according to a report released Tuesday by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Some police officers were allowed to stay in schools after being accused of serious misconduct that injured students. In two of the cases, city attorneys settled lawsuits with the victims, the report found.

Altogether, lawsuits stemming from the alleged misconduct cost the city $2 million, according to the report by the Chicago-based group.

A CPS spokesperson said in a statement that the district appreciates the recommendations from the Shriver Center and will “seriously consider all potential opportunities to maintain our safe school environments while further strengthening school climates.”

The Chicago Police Department did not respond to requests for comment by WBEZ or the report’s authors.

CPS pays the police department $13.8 million a year for police in schools and doesn’t have any formal agreement regarding training, screening and accountability for the officers.

CPS’ arrangement with the police department “doesn’t define the role of the officers in schools and what they can and cannot do,” said Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley, the report’s author.

The report notes that the number of school-based police officers in Chicago has gone down in recent years. But many high school principals resist taking them away completely.

The Shriver Center would like to see school-based police officers eliminated altogether.

Until then, Mbekeani-Wiley said CPS should insist on a formal agreement with the police department that specifies a screening process for officers and a system for lodging complaints. The district should also require training for police officers on how to interact with children.

Another problem is that police officers do not have to follow the school district’s code of conduct, Mbekeani-Wiley says. In recent years, the district’s discipline code has shifted away from strictly punishing students to helping them learn from their mistakes.

Mbekeani-Wiley said student discipline should be addressed by school officials rather than by law enforcement. She said an arrest remains on a student’s records and can be detrimental to them throughout their lives.

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation.