Chicago Public Schools have taken more than their share of beatings in recent months, with the latest blow coming in the form of school closures of underperforming schools. Parents have protested the decision by school officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying children previously attending closed schools will now have to travel further and through dangerous neighborhoods to get to class every day. In hopes of countering some of those fears, Mayor Emanuel has followed the announcement of school closures with an announcement of a new safety program designed to keep kids safe in the classroom and the community.
The Unveiling of the New CompStat Safety Program
Last week, Mayor Emanuel unveiled the new safety program, which is modeled after the CompStat program first used in New York in 1994. According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the program is designed to hold law enforcement officers accountable and accurately analyze crime statistics in surrounding neighborhoods at weekly meetings. While this program was originally developed to enhance law enforcement throughout New York City, the model can also be easily customized to the school and community environment.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy participated in the New York CompStat program for seven years while serving as head of the crime strategy for the NYPD. Now, he brings his experience to the Chicago program in hopes of uniting law enforcement, education officials, and religious leaders in weekly accountability and strategizing sessions to keep Chicago kids safer. Through these weekly meetings, all three institutions will come together to share information about potential problems so that possible student tensions can be headed off at the pass.
“The idea is to ensure that the cop on the street knows exactly what’s going on in the school, and the principal in the school knows exactly what the cop on the street is doing,” McCarthy explained to the Sun-Times. “It’s a transferrable process that can be used in virtually any scenario. So, it’s a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned. I am sure that this will provide a greater level of safety for our kids.”
This video offers and overview of the CompStat program.
The Launch of the Program
According to a report in the Examiner, the new CPS safety program is scheduled to launch on December 13, with the first school-based meeting taking place on that day. The program's accountability benchmarks will be determined daily, weekly, 28 days, and annually. Mayor Emanuel says the new program is about showing accountability to the children in Chicago Public Schools.
“School-based CompStat helps to create a culture of accountability so we can end crime near our schools and make sure our students can focus on their studies, not their safety,” Emanuel told the Examiner. “By applying some of CompStat’s methods in and around schools, we can better coordinate the partnerships between school leaders and police.”
The Chicago Sun-Times explains the advantages of the program. Since leaders and law enforcement officers who work with Chicago youth on a daily basis will now come together weekly to share information, everyone will be better versed on potential problems among some of the kids at a particular school. For example, if a conflict develops over the weekend, the school will know about it so that school officials can ensure the problems do not carry over into classrooms. If a fight occurs on school grounds, law enforcement officials will know to keep tabs on kids on their way home from school, where the fight will likely continue.
Schools on Board
Kenyatta Stansberry, principal at Marshall High School, told the Sun-Times that she believes the additional coordination through weekly meetings will improve student safety.
“It will involve all schools. It will involve all commanders. And it will allow everybody to step up and take responsibility for what’s happening in the community and the schools,” Stansberry said. “When you look at the data, and Monday mornings, sometimes we have to deal with school incidents that happen over the weekend. Knowing this might be a possible situation because we just had CompStat last week might help.”
Stansberry has been instrumental in creating a safer, more positive environment in her high school, and she would like to see the change spread to other schools as well. Marshall High School has already been coordinating with local law enforcement to improve security, and the efforts have been welcomed by students and parents. Stansberry told WLS-TV that improved security is one of the primary reasons attendance at the high school has shot up from just 52 percent to 80 percent.
“They come to school, they have a nurturing environment. Phenomenal teachers, security that is phenomenal,” Stansberry explained.
This TedTalk discusses the importance of mindset in policing.
Politicizing Kids’ Safety?
Some critics of the new CompStat program are complaining that this step is simply Mayor Emanuel’s way of pacifying parents and students concerned about the recent school closures, along with his stronger curfew ordinance that went into effect for this school year. However, Mayor Emanuel refuted those accusations in a recent statement when he announced the launch of the CompStat program.
“Failure is not an option,” Emanuel was reported saying at NBC Chicago. “We owe it to our children as adults to give them an education and to give them a safe environment. I’ve been talking about this for a long time…When it comes to the safety of our children, when it comes to making sure we are using our resources right, there’s not a day that any of my commissioners can take a rest of that effort.”
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