• Description

The relationship between law enforcement and schools in the United States has evolved significantly over the last 60 years. Law enforcement officers, now commonly known as School Resource Officers (SROs), have been permanently assigned to schools in various cities since 1953. Spurred by increases in federal funding, the practice has grown significantly in the last two decades. Although evidence has shown that these officers' presence did not improve school safety, by 1997, approximately 9,446 SROs were assigned to schools throughout the country.

Research shows that the mere presence of police officers in school increases the likelihood that a student will be referred to law enforcement for adolescent behavior. School-based arrests, which fall more harshly on students of color, put students in direct contact with the justice system. Poor policing within schools therefore puts students on the fast track to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Chicago, a city with a long history of troubled policing, has seen similar growth in the use of police in schools. As of April 2016, 248 police officers were assigned to 75 primary and secondary schools within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). These officers are not required to have any specialized training other than a working knowledge of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Code of Conduct.

This paper examines the history of school-based policing, its current state, and best practices for school-based safety, with a focus on school policing in the Chicago Public Schools. Because of current problems related to the presence of police officers in schools, it is our recommendation that law enforcement should not be permanently assigned to the Chicago Public Schools. Police should only be contacted when there is a real, immediate threat to a student, a teacher, or public safety. CPS should collaborate with local community stakeholders to define the role of School Resource Officers in the context of the educational mission of our schools. It's time to rethink the role of these law enforcement officers in ensuring safety and security for our school children