Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Management of School Resource Officers Follow-Up Inquiry

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) Public Safety Section (PS) has completed a follow-up to its September 2018 review of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD or “the Department”) management of School Resource Officers (SRO) assigned to Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Based on the Department’s responses, OIG concludes that CPD has not fully implemented all of the corrective actions related to the review findings.

OIG’s September 2018 review reported that, contrary to national established best practices:

  1. CPD SROs operated in public schools without a CPD-CPS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or intergovernmental agreement (dating back to January 1, 2017).
  2. CPD lacked policies or procedures that detailed SRO recruitment, selection, placement, training, roles and responsibilities, and evaluation.
  3. CPD lacked written guidance specifying SRO roles and responsibilities.
  4. CPD lacked sufficient controls, guidance, and standards to evaluate SRO performance.
  5. CPD lacked current rosters of officers working as SROs and the schools to which they were assigned.

Based upon the results of the evaluation, OIG recommended that the Department immediately:

  1. Work with CPS, juvenile justice entities, and civil rights and community stakeholders to draft and implement an MOU that meets constitutional and statutory civil rights requirements. The MOU should:
    a. State the purpose of the SRO partnership;
    b. Outline the roles and responsibilities of CPD, CPS, and schools
    c. Emphasize that SROs should not be involved in routine student disciplinary matters;
    d. Define what information CPS and CPD will share;
    e. Establish required initial and ongoing training for officers assigned as SROs; and
    f. Establish performance evaluations aligned with SROs’ established roles and training that measures SROs’ ability to de-escalate situations and use alternatives to arresting students.
  2. Collaborate with CPS, students, families, and community stakeholders to create hiring guidelines for SROs.
  3. Create Department policies and procedures, aligned with best practice and the MOU, that address SRO recruitment, selection, placement, training, roles and responsibilities, and evaluation.
  4. Maintain and regularly update rosters of officers assigned to CPS.
  5. Designate a program coordinator to enhance coordination and accountability.

In response, CPD concurred with many of the findings and some of the recommendations detailed in the report. CPD’s response indicated that by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year the Department would:

  • 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 and annual refresher trainings and encourage SROs to exercise discretion to use alternatives to arrest and referral to juvenile court.

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

  • 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.

In February 2019, OIG inquired about the progress the Department was making toward these goals. Based on CPD’s response, OIG concludes that the Department has fully implemented one recommendation, has not implemented one recommendation, and three recommendations remain pending. Overall, CPD has failed to undertake action with the immediacy called for by OIG or consonant with the deep community consternation over the method, manner, means and, in some quarters, very existence of the program.

Among other things, while CPD has ensured that the roster of officers assigned to schools is regularly updated, it has not adopted OIG’s recommendation for an SRO program coordinator. CPD is still working towards the implementation of an MOU, SRO policies, procedures, and hiring guidelines, all of which require collaboration with CPS, parents, students, and various community stakeholders.