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Citing safety, most high schools keeping police

This summer, CPS officials announced a cost-cutting move that they hoped would save $13 million: Offer high schools $25,000 in exchange for each police officer they agreed to give up. Having officers assigned to schools for 8-hour shifts cost about $75,000 a year per officer, according to CPS. But while CPS eventually upped its offer, most high school principals’ concerns over safety have led them to hold on to the two uniformed police officers that have traditionally been assigned to their schools.

Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley says that only four high school principals let go of both their officers and 12 gave up one. CPS officials declined to identify those principals that took CPS up on the cash offer, but emphasized the schools have safety plans in place to avoid any problems the loss of the police might bring.

Cawley says CPS was able to bring down the costs of having the police officers in schools by telling CPD that the district won’t pay to have them on hand over breaks or the summer. Altogether he says CPS will save about $11 million by being diligent about the way they manage the police officers.

Cawley acknowledged that he was surprised that, even principals in schools in good neighborhoods, were reluctant to give up their officers.  When Cawley announced the offer CPS was making to principals, he said he saw it as a “win, win, win.” Principals get some extra cash to spend in perhaps a more productive way, while the district saves some money.

“[Police Supt. Garry] McCarthy gets some big numbers of police officers that he can send to the street,” Cawley said.

Back in August, he said he thought 70 percent of principals would take CPS up on the offer and he would have no problem with picking up the tab for police officers at schools where principals think they need them. “As you can imagine, in a school where the  officers are very visible and have relationships with students and staff and are clearly helping to keep the peace, those principals will say, ‘I am keeping my cops,’ ” he said at an August budget briefing. “And we say, ‘God bless you, we are fine with that.’  And we are paying for it.”

Yet after the experience of having so many principals turn down the offer, Cawley says in the future things might change. Principals might have to reach into their individual school budgets to pay, at least partly, for the police officers, Cawley says. “Then we will see how much they value them,” he says.

It’s not just police officers. Cawley says that he questions the need for the 750 security officers in the schools, calling them “an army.”

“In good times, it might have been something we could do, but in these times we have to question every expense,” says Cawley, who noted that in some schools security guards do provide needed monitoring of students as they move from place to place. 

The costs of police officers became a hot one this summer when suddenly the cash-strapped school district was asked to fork over $46 million in backpay to the Chicago Police Department. According to officials, the Chicago Police Department had provided the officers at a discounted rate for more than two decades. Then suddenly demanded that CPS not only pay the full price of $25 million in 2012, but also pay back expenses incurred for the past three years.

Though he wasn’t in CPS when these previous deals were made, and admitted he didn’t know the rationale for it, Cawley said the district had no choice but to make the back payment of $46 million to the police department because “it is the right thing to do.”

Safety first

Many of the high school administrators Catalyst spoke with, including those from selective enrollment schools such as Whitney Young and Northside College Prep, said the decision to keep a police presence in and around their schools wasn’t a difficult one.

“We have 2,300 students here and what they were offering was chump change,” said one principal, noting that the district offered no guarantee that the money would be around next year.

The administrators also noted that CPS officials had offered them more money after they turned down the original offer. “It seems like they are trying to find the right price,” said one principal.

But school administrators said Emanuel and CPS leaders don’t understand the key role police officers play in the schools. An assistant principal at Gage Park High School said simply that the school is in a “high-risk, high gang area and we need the authority that police officers bring.”

“Sometimes we need police officers to do things that extend beyond what security guards can do,” he said.

Because they report to police sergeants, police officers often know when tension is brewing in the neighborhood or when fights take place off-campus and during non-school hours. They can bring that knowledge into the school and try to mitigate additional violence from happening on campus.

Brian Richter, an assistant principal at Kelly High School, said keeping the police officers was less about problems inside the school and more about them outside the school.

“There was not much discussion on this issue,” he said. “We feel like we are maintaining safety pretty good and we didn’t want to rock the boat.”

Many of the administrators also added that the police officers were part of the schools, mentoring students and giving them a positive view of police officers. 

Amundsen Dean Leonard Evans says police officers do prevention work and counsel students in tough situations. “We have two excellent officers. They do social work for our students and our teachers. We love them.”

King College Prep Principal Jeff Wright agreed, and added that he didn’t quite understand why CPS or the schools had to pay for the police presence. “Where else do you find 1,000 people concentrated in one place on a weekday?” he said. “The job of the police is to keep the community safe, and we are part of the community.”


Anonymous wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

This is proof!!

he said he saw it as a “win, win, win.” Principals get some extra cash to spend in perhaps a more productive way, while the district saves some money" yeah and students lose their lives and are too afraid to go to school!

CPS and Brizzard and Rahm have NOOOOO idea about the violence that lurks in their schools. I dont understand who put Brizzard and rahm in charge...they have no clue the true state of cps schools. they seem to think they are full of knowledge starved kids who are being neglected by union thugs...honestly rahm...put on a disquise and visit a few high school,s a junior high or even an elementary would be shocked...I dare you to go undercover as a sub for a few weeks Brizzard and rahmm...yo uwould be shocked! maybe you wouldnt cut the police and teacher salaries!

Too much testing common core wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Mr. Cawley--you'd know better if you lived in Chicago

Do the right thing-move into the city like everyone else has to.

Grandma wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Most High Schools Keep Police

Oh course many high schools are keeping police. Check the police data base against many area high schools and you will find that underage criminals also attend school and commit crimes inside school buildings, not just around the perimeters or blocks away from the school. Who is going to protect the children who are not trouble makers if the police go away??

Anonymous wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Uniformed Officers are a Terrible Value for CPS

I can't believe none of the principals interviewed for this piece let out some very important points. Namely, that these officers are not a good value for CPS. First of all, they don't take direction from cps admins. They make it a point to let the admin know that. Secondly, the ones I have had experience with are well-connected CPD that treat this assignment as a cushy job that they can spend the day surfing the net. Thirdly, they are not flexible in their schedules. So in short, they can be lazy, inflexible and a waste of taxpayer money in this current form. I think it is a great deal to take the money and hire 2 part time off-duty officers (4 hrs. each) whose schedule we control and who are more accountable to the cps admin over them.

anonymous wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Sounds like you do not like

Sounds like you do not like it when CPD arrests a student and you do not want the child arrested because his mother is on your LSC....wishy, washy principals do not protect students nor staff....

HS Teacher wrote 3 years 11 weeks ago

Clueless Cawley

This is why outsiders who have not come up through the ranks make bad decisions. If Cawley spent any time in real high schools, he would know how dangerous, violent and scary they can be. We have students who do not know how to appropriately handle their emotions. We have other students who do not see any other way to respond to small slights. I saw a kid accidentally bump into another kid in the cafeteria. He said excuse me. He wound up in a hospital with his skull cracked by a baseball bat from the 25 year old brother of that kid he bumped into. On the other hand, I have students who want to help their friends, have hearts the size of Texas, but have so much outside negativity they don't know how to choose wisely.

Sadly, the outsiders like Cawley live in a delusional bubble. I bet this guy was stunned that the principals said we'll take our cops. That's because he believed the anecdotal stories like the one above dissing cops. I adore my officers, thank you very much. We're glad our principal has sense enough to keep them.

steve m wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

keeping police presence

If the new chicago mayor wants to keep a viable school system in chicago that serves the most needy children he will make better decisions than this.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

Take the $ and use it towards Restorative Justice tranining...

then perhaps you won't need the police and the "army" of security officers and the resulting punitive culture that this brings to these schools.

puniive culture? wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

if your chid is attacked by a

if your chid is attacked by a gang of thug? you want the school to resolve it with the law or a case manager who has 75 students a week to see and manage...dont be naive...violence is a part of cps..i hate to say it but teachers would prefer not to hav the violence...i work in a really nice school...and guess what...we dont suspend kids!!

puniive culture? (oops) wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

what i am trying to say is

what i am trying to say is ....our kids are good and they dont get suspended...but if they are bad they get suspendd...simple as that!! i guarantee these kids dont get suspended for chewing gum!!

Anonymous 2 wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

RE: This is proof

The Daley and Emanuel administrations keep fooling a very misled public with the touchy-feely mantra, "It's for the kids." How could they waste money closing down schools, thereby putting children in harm's way to travel through gang territory, increasing their risk of dropping out? For the kids. Redirecting monies they didn't have by pushing REN 2010 and adding to the deficit THEY say exists? For the kids. Extending the school day a ridiculous amount of time so that the kids don't see the light of day? For the kids. Not honoring a contract between adults and their agent, then paying off parties to get them to comply? For the kids. Reducing the police presence in schools of neighborhoods with high unemployment, high mobility, high criminality per capita, high disenfranchisement, and low morale? It's all for the kids, people.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

Not very informed

This guy is an idiot. He thought that 70% of schools would give up their police officers. Has he even visited 7 schools? If he did ever agreee to move into the city, would he send his child to a high school without police officers?

People with so little knowledge of the city and the schools should not be able to make such important decisions.

Rebecca wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

let's look at Columbine

I know it's a touchy issue, but think about this:
Not even Columbine has police officers and metal detectors or even backpack scanners... not even after the terrible event their school went through. What did they do? They invested in a higher ratio of councilors to students. 1:40

How did CPS respond? all the security we see. Not ever has there been a "columbine" inside an urban school, let alone CPS. Yet so many schools responded to the SUBurban killings by getting police and metal detectors involved.

Is this the best way to use resources? Now our urban schools feel like prisons with bars on windows, police walking the hallways, and metal detectors students must go through each morning.

How does this effect the psyche of our students? Does this really help make for a better or more conducive learning environment?

Think about a young urban student who only can visit a family member in jail or prison - what does that institution look like? much like the HS doors he walks through every day....

Just a thought...

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