For nearly two years, we have been protesting against the expansion of the Chicago Police Department’s occupation of black and brown communities, and calling for resource investment in our communities instead. Although the original motive for the #NoCopAcademy campaign was the city’s intentionally sneaky announcement of a $95 million dollar cop academy to be built on the Westside without meaningful community input, our campaign expands beyond efforts at preventing construction of one building. It has been a campaign rallying around divestment from and demilitarization of the police. The final votes on the cop academy may have passed last Spring, but many of us are still out here mobilizing our communities and countering the destructive narrative that policing brings about community safety; and as young people we see a huge part of that as removing police from our schools.
The #NoCopAcademy campaign has taught us a lot about how the city of Chicago, spearheaded by the mayor, operates and makes all kinds of decisions that affect our daily lives, under the public’s nose without real ways for the people most impacted by those decisions to have any say over them. Under Rahm’s reign we experienced the closure of more than 50 Chicago Public Schools and half of the city’s mental health clinics, most of which were in black and brown communities on the south and west side. Then he proposed the “investment” of a $95 million cop academy, as though a new building for police will solve anything that’s making life unlivable for our communities. At every step of the way, massive opposition to these plans was ignored and repressed.
Already, Lori Lightfoot has continued Rahm’s agenda of police expansion, by suggesting to turn closed CPS schools into mini cop academies and promising to make the cop academy that Rahm proposed twice as large. And just last week, her newly appointed not-elected school board voted to give $33 million (nearly double what CPS spent last year) to expand and formalize the role of cops in schools.
This decision was announced and carried out in under 24 hours, but followed a summer of fake ‘community input’ proceedings, so we weren’t surprised. She had the Local School Councils vote on keeping their cops in the schools throughout the month of July. Keeping in mind that the vote of student LSC representatives who are directly impacted by cops in schools do not count. When have we been asked how we feel about having police in our schools?
Often times officers are placed in schools because they are too dangerous to be on the streets. It’s considered a form of “desk duty.” Through filing FOIAs we discovered by ourselves that CPS did not know the police in our schools. Once we did find their names and badge numbers we found that most cops at our schools have multiple complaints on their records. Such as Michael Boss #11417 stationed at Back of the Yards, who had been a police officer since 1993, has as many as 20 allegations, 4 of which are sustained. This is not uncommon, according to the Shriver Center, “In total, between 2012 and 2016, the police officers assigned to CPS accumulated $2,030,652 in misconduct settlements for activities on and off school grounds.” This is what our city claims safety in our schools looks like.
As we head back to school, we must remember that students will be entering the building and spending 7 hours a day with these cops carrying guns and tasers. Having police in our schools strengthens the school to prison pipeline, because it increases the probability of students having interactions with police officers and getting wrapped up in the criminal justice system. The so called ‘safety’ that the city claims to bring about by investing in police does not translate into actual safety, in communities where our schools have been closed or drained of resources. We need more funding to be invested into under-resourced schools for full time nurses, social workers, and counselors, culturally relevant classes, and updated textbooks. We need wrap around services, not police.
Removing police from our schools is just one small step towards a true sanctuary city, where all its residents are safe and cared for. Our city still makes huge investments in other forms of surveillance, policing, and militarism that are solely focused on oppressing young Black people and people of color. When we walk out of the classroom, police are at our festivals, in our malls, on the lakefront, at the parks, and on our blocks. Where can young Black people exist in Chicago without the specter of police watching us, waiting for a moment when they can catch us?
We want #PoliceFreeSchools now.
Fund our communities, not policing.