Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Management of School Resource Officers

The Public Safety Section (PS) of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded a review of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD or the Department) management of School Resource Officers (SRO) assigned to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). OIG has concluded that CPD’s recruitment, selection, placement, training, specification of roles and responsibilities, and evaluations of its SROs are not sufficient to ensure officers working in schools can successfully execute their specialized duties.

OIG reviewed CPD’s recruitment, selection, placement, training, specification of roles and responsibilities, and evaluation of its SROs assigned to CPS. OIG determined that, since December 31, 2016, CPD has assigned officers to CPS without a current legal agreement between the two agencies. Neither CPD nor CPS is able to provide an up-to-date list of SROs and the school locations to which these officers are assigned. Rather, CPD provided a list last updated in March 2017, while CPS provided a list current through 2014.

CPD currently lacks Department directives to address SRO-specific recruitment, selection, placement, training, or evaluation. Moreover, CPD’s current processes for recruiting, selecting, placing, training, specifying roles and responsibilities, and evaluating SROs do not reflect best practices—as none have been adopted by CPD. Yet best practice standards exist. For example, in 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education released a set of resources entitled the SECURe Local Implementation Rubric and SECURe State and Local Policy Rubrics—to help both local education agencies and law enforcement agencies develop SRO programs that foster school safety without violating students’ civil rights or unnecessarily involving students in the criminal justice system. CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions.

For the benefit of CPS students, their families, and the Chicago community at large, within this report, OIG provides CPD with recommendations for the Department to establish an SRO program aligned with national best practices. To that end, OIG recommends that CPD,

  • draft and implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in collaboration with CPS and community stakeholders that, amongst other areas, states:
    • the purpose of the SRO partnership;
    • outlines the roles and responsibilities of CPD, CPS, and principals in schools; and
    • emphasizes that SROs should not be involved in routine student disciplinary matters;
  • collaborate with CPS, students, families and the community to establish hiring guidelines for SROs;
  • establish and require initial and ongoing training for officers assigned as SROs;
  • establish performance evaluations aligned with established SRO roles and training that measures the ability of SROs to de-escalate situations and use alternatives to student arrest;
  • designate a program coordinator to enhance coordination and accountability; and
  • maintain and regularly update rosters of officers assigned to CPS.

Due to the high level of significance this issue holds within the community and in order to bring much sought-after clarity and resolution to this topic, OIG requested a prompt response from CPD detailing: (1) the Department’s response to the findings; and (2) its intended actions to remedy this current state of affairs. OIG encouraged CPD and CPS to resolve these issues prior to the start of the 2018-2019 school year, so that CPS students could benefit from a functional SRO program rooted in national best practices as soon as possible. CPD, in turn, requested a 30-day extension for its response to this report. As a result, OIG received CPD’s response on September 4, 2018—the first day of school for the current school year.

In their response, CPD concurred with many of the findings and recommendations detailed in the report. CPD’s response indicated that the Department will:

  • Undertake best efforts to enter into an MOU with CPS that clearly delineates authority and specifies procedures for CPD officer interaction with students while on school grounds;
  • Develop a policy that defines roles, responsibilities, and appropriate actions of SROs, which will include an express prohibition on the administration of school discipline by CPD officers and provisions for the collection, analysis, and use of data regarding CPD activities in schools;
  • Develop and implement screening criteria to ensure SROs have the qualifications, skills, and abilities necessary to work safely and effectively with students, parents/guardians, and school personnel; and
  • Ensure that all SROs receive initial specialized training and annual refresher trainings, and encourage SROs to exercise discretion to use alternatives to arrest and referral to juvenile court.

OIG acknowledges CPD’s expressed commitment to making these necessary reforms. However, the reforms proposed by CPD in their response did not address other crucial areas of concern outlined in the report. Specifically, CPD did not acknowledge or respond to the following recommendations outlined in the report:

  • To include a broad range of community stakeholders in the creation of the MOU;
  • To create hiring guidelines and include a broad range of community stakeholders in the process;
  • To state the purpose of the SRO partnership with CPS in the MOU;
  • To define the data and information that will be shared between CPD and CPS;
  • To establish performance evaluations for SROs; and
  • To maintain and regularly update rosters of SROs.

Last, CPD indicated that their proposed changes will be implemented as part of the consent decree before the start of the 2019-2020 school year. CPD’s failure to act more expeditiously to implement the reforms prior to the next school year leaves students, teachers, parents, and community stakeholders in the current school year without the protections and assurances of a school safety program that is aligned with national best practices.