Schools Need Less Traditional Policing and More Supportive Services
Updated: Aug 19, 2019
On June 14, 2019 the Chicago Sun Times reported Mayor Lori Lightfoot's intention to remove police officers from public schools after a negative confrontation occurred between a student and several officers in one of the high schools. She based her threat on her assessment that police officers are not trained to deal with student issues. A former CPD police officer suggested that the history of violence in other schools warrants police presence. Other professionals presented the idea of using less policing and more trauma and restorative justice services.
To start with, policing can be more effective in all situations when it follows the community policing model described by Wikipedia as "a strategy of policing that focuses on building ties and working closely with members of the communities." According to "Understanding Community Policing," issued by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this "community-oriented policing" focuses on "community partnership and problem solving," a model which is part of a more restorative law enforcement system. Training officers to build relationships with the citizenry in any setting develops a sense of familiarity with patterns of behavior within those communities while building trust. This focus gives the impression that the police exist to protect rather than apprehend and punish individuals within a community, a more proactive approach than reactive. With an eye to individuals that might engage in criminal activity and the situations that foment them, community police officers have an opportunity to prevent those events from happening, and by building relationships with community individuals, they invite support and information toward that same end.
Certainly, cutting back on police presence by making other types of personnel available to students to help with their emotional needs as well as to teach them how to resolve conflicts more constructively, could be valuable as well. Employing restorative justice practices such as peer juries, conferencing, and facilitation of dialogue between victim and offender as useful, positive and productive ways to address conflicts that arise between individuals and groups of students, leads to greater harmony within the school setting. Ultimately, these activities serve as teaching strategies for how to communicate in healthy, assertive ways while solving conflicts peacefully and effectively.