CPS security chief quits 3 weeks before school starts

August 12, 2011 4:26:06 PM PDT
Just three weeks before students return to Chicago Public Schools, the ABC 7 I-Team has learned that the schools' security director Michael Shields is leaving.

In this Intelligence Report: Shields' departure leaves CPS without a security chief.

After an especially violent summer that has seen children shot, wounded, and killed in the city as students prepare to head back to school, the timing of the CPS security director stepping down would seem unusual -- especially considering Mayor Rahm Emanuel's focus on curfew enforcement and school safety.

Shields joined the Chicago Public Schools as safety and security director in 2009, at the end of a school year that saw almost 40 students meet violent deaths.

Shields was hailed as someone who had a "solid understanding of law enforcement, school communities and neighborhoods. He brought 21 years of experience as a Chicago Police officer, including deputy chief in the detective division from 2002 to 2008, when he was promoted by then Superintendent Jody Weis to deputy superintendent.

However, Weis demoted Shields, and he ended up taking a leave of absence, leaving for the top school security job, which paid him $150,000 a year.

Michael Shields is also a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama. It was that relationship with the Obamas and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel that put Shields on top of some lists to be selected Chicago police superintendent by Mayor Emanuel.

Although he did not get that job, Shields is moving back to the police department on Monday, and no replacement has been hired to run the school security department.

A school system spokesperson told the I-Team Friday: "There's an entire team here dedicated to violence prevention and are the day to day managers of all of our programs. Do you anticipate something is going to fall between the cracks between now and when we find a replacement? Programs will continue to operate. Services will continue to be provided. Nothing is coming to a screeching halt by any means."

Chicago Police officials confirm that Shields is returning to the force as a lieutenant, which is the rank he had when he left two years ago. They say he will go through a training period on updated policies and laws and be reassigned.

He last worked at Belmont Area headquarters. The bigger question: Who will replace him as school security chief?

Statement from Chicago Public Schools spokesperson Becky Carroll about the departure of security director Michael Shields:

"Mike isn't a one man shop by any means. There's an entire team here dedicated to violence prevention and are the day to day managers of all of our programs. They work directly with schools and vendors that help deliver services to students. Do you anticipate something is going to fall between the cracks between now and when we find a replacement? Programs will continue to operate. Services will continue to be provided. Nothing is coming to a screeching halt by any means.

Please just underscore my thoughts that we have the support needed to continue all services and programs to schools. :) FYI, we've increased and protected all of our school based culture of calm and safe passage funds along with a new 7m investment in security camera systems for 14 high need schools in this year's budget as well."


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