Los Angeles school police chief releases powerful resignation statement after board slashes funding

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Los Angeles School Police Chief Todd Chamberlain resigned following a decision by the school board to cut millions in funding and remove officers from campuses.

Chamberlain, who stepped into the job just last year, turned in his resignation on Wednesday, according to district spokeswoman Shannon Haber, the Los Angeles Times reported. With over 35 years in law enforcement, Chamberlain made the decision one day after the school board gave in to what he called a “potentially life-threatening” choice to cut the school police budget by $25 million.

“After humbly serving my communities, department and personnel over 35 years in Law-Enforcement, I have been placed in a position that makes my ability to effectively, professionally and safely impact those groups unachievable,” the former police chief said in a statement.

Following weeks of protests by student activists and community groups demanding the department be eliminated, the Los Angeles Board of Education decided in a 4-3 vote on Tuesday to make a 35% cut to its school police force, amounting to the layoffs of 65 officers.  In addition, L.A. School Police Department officers have to give up their uniforms and patrol off-campus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“In good conscience, and in fear for safety and well-being of those I serve, I cannot support modifications to my position, the organization and most importantly, the community (students, staff and families) that I believe will be detrimental and potentially life-threatening,” Chamberlain said in his statement.

The board action affecting the more than 470-employee LASPD department came after another outrageous proposal to cut the budget by 90 percent failed to pass last week. Retired longtime school administrators who are part of the board,  President Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson, opposed Tuesday’s vote because of the obvious safety implications.

While the chief of staff for board member Jackie Goldberg explained that officers would no longer be armed and would be banned from using pepper spray, this was not clear as an official decision on Wednesday when school police union President Gil Gamez said: “I’m sitting in a roll call and everyone is in uniform and everyone has their weapons.”

The resolution did reportedly state that the funds saved by the cuts would go to “support African American student achievement to the extent of the law,” according to The Times. And in the case of a crisis on campus, schools would reportedly have access “to appropriate community support in the event of an emergency.”

Apparently the move is being seen as just a first step toward a goal of complete elimination.

“This decision is a huge step that the LAUSD School Board is taking to cut the school police department and fund Black futures,” Mya Edwards, a Students Deserve organizer, said.

“The fight for real school safety has only just begun,” Melina Abdulla, co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A.said. “A powerful coalition has formed and will not stop until we rid police from schools and invest in visions of safety that are grounded in meeting student needs.”

The union representing LAUSD teachers had called for totally eliminating the LASPD.

“The school board’s action is a huge first step in the campaign for police-free schools and ground-breaking in terms of our movement for supporting Black lives in our schools,” the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, Cecily Myart-Cruz, said Wednesday.

Before he resigned, Chamberlain had warned the board of the consequences of their decision to cut funding.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Before the vote, Chamberlain, the school police chief, told the board the cut would result in an immediate reduction of 65 officers and would limit officer presence at high schools to school hours Monday through Friday. In addition, he said, 39 vacancies would not be filled and there would be no overtime available to fill the gaps. The department has a total of 472 employees, including 344 sworn officers, who are certified to carry weapons.

 

The vote would mean the end of the department’s intervention and prevention efforts, Chamberlain warned, as well as leaving adult and night school students unprotected. Any crimes involving burglaries, vandalism and trespassing as well as sex-trafficking prevention would be made more difficult to address as security on campuses after-hours would basically be wiped out.

Chamberlain’s decision to resign in the face of the changes caused shock on social media where Twitter users slammed the school board.

 

 

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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