NYPD Considers Hiring 475 Additional School Safety Agents
The proposal comes after de Blasio said school safety agents would be moved from under the NYPD and amid a hiring freeze of social workers and guidance counselors.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — New York City officials are considering a proposal to hire additional New York Police Department (NYPD) school safety agents after Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would cut NYPD’s $6 billion budget by $1 billion for fiscal year 2021 — $300 million of which was supposed to come from moving school safety agents from under the NYPD.
Nearly eight months later, the transfer has not happened and a Department of Education Official said Thursday the NYPD has been discussing hiring 475 additional school safety agents in March and June with a price tag of $20 million, reports Politico. There are currently more than 5,000 school safety agents at NYC schools.
Ironically, the first public mentioning of the hirings came during a Council hearing on reducing police presence in schools. The proposal drew opposition from many, including Education Department officials and City Council members, as the city endures economic fallout from the pandemic and a continued hiring freeze at several other agencies, including social workers and guidance counselors for schools.
Kenyatte Reid, executive director of the DOE’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, argued the money would be better used for restorative justice programs, social workers, guidance counselors, culturally responsive curriculum development, literacy programs and community schools.
“We know restorative practices work,” Reid said. “We know social-emotional learning is what is needed right now. We are in the midst of a pandemic the likes that none of us have been alive for before. I am deeply concerned that our investment is in the wrong place.”
Council education committee chair Mark Treyger said the mere discussion of hiring more school safety agents reflects the city’s misplaced priorities when school communities desperately need resources to help students during the pandemic.
“It is outrageous that they, first of all, lied to this institution and quite frankly did not invest the resources where our kids need them the most,” Treyger continued. “This is going to be a major issue in our budget season.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who has been outspoken about his support of shifting funding from NYPD to anti-violence initiatives and family and social services, said the new hires would be a “disingenuous” move after de Blasio committed to reforming school security policies, according to Gothamist.
“Our schools have been over-policed for decades, which has exacerbated the school to prison pipeline and left students feeling more unsafe than ever. That’s why the City Council successfully fought to initiate a major transformation in our approach to policing and student wellness,” Jacob Tugendrajch, a spokesperson for Johnson, told Gothamist in a statement. “It’s mind-boggling and disingenuous that the Administration would look to build up NYPD’s school safety force now while we are amid this process. We need to move forward, not backward.”
Some City Council members also said they are backing proposed reforms to the NYPD prompted by a mandate issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Under the proposed reforms, NYPD school safety agents would no longer be able to make arrests, carry weapons or mechanical restraints, or wear law enforcement uniforms. School safety personnel would also be retrained with a focus on de-escalation techniques.
The de Blasio administration said no decisions have been made but confirmed that hiring discussions are underway.
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