Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling expects his department will still have a presence around local schools, but they’ll have to “adjust” after Mayor Brandon Johnson gave his blessing to Chicago Public Schools to end its controversial resource officer contract.
Johnson told the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ this week that he’ll allow the city’s Board of Education to move on from its contract with the Chicago Police Department to provide school resource officers (SROs) at dozens of high schools.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon before the Economic Club of Chicago, Snelling said police officers will always have some role in school safety, even if they’re no longer working inside schools.
“We’ll adjust,” he said. “We’re not gonna be offended because we’re voted out of the schools. We’re just gonna continue to continue to do the work that we do and make sure these kids are safe.”
The mayor’s announcement this week comes years after Chicago and many other cities across the country began rethinking policing strategies following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.
That summer, students and advocates in Chicago began pushing CPS to remove all police from school buildings, saying their presence had a disproportionately negative impact on Black students and strengthened the school-to-prison pipeline.
CPS has since begun allowing individual local school councils to decide whether they wanted to add, maintain or eliminate SRO positions at their schools. The district also retooled its agreements with the police department to better define SRO responsibilities and give school leaders more control over the officers working in their buildings.
When the Board of Education approved its latest deal with the CPD last year — worth $10.3 million — there were 57 SROs total across 39 high school campuses. Back in 2020, that contract totaled $33 million.
A Chicago native and Englewood High School grad, Snelling recounted his own experiences with his SRO, whom he described as a “father figure for me and others at the school” before noting it was a “different time.”
“If you weren’t in class, he’d give you a little smack upside the head and make you go to class,” Snelling joked. “Obviously we don’t do that anymore.”
When asked about the contract, Snelling said that decision would be made outside the CPD. But he said regardless of whether officers will be in or out of schools, the police department will continue to assist with the district’s Safe Passage program and will provide squads outside school buildings during dismissal, particularly in areas where there may have been fights or threats of violence.
He also doesn’t believe that removing SROs would put any additional strain on the CPD in the event there were more calls for services that other officers would have to respond to.
Snelling said schools already have staff members in place to deal with most disciplinary issues, and he doesn’t want to send police to a school every time someone is acting out.
“It wouldn’t be a major change” he said.