PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Student protesters have demanded that the School District of Philadelphia disband its school police department. The district says it isn’t going that far, but changes are in the works.
Students have complained of feeling criminalized by the mere presence of school police officers. Kevin Bethel, the new district security chief, says he understands that. He told the school board Thursday night that he’s changing the job title to “school safety officer,” retraining them to be more welcoming, and phasing in new uniforms.
“Really making sure that we’re not in the enforcement, but also really working in the prevention and intervention part of our work,” Bethel said.
Board member Mallory Fix Lopez, however, is concerned the overhaul will be merely cosmetic.
“When I see a change in job description, a change in uniform and a change in proposed name, I just see a repackaged system,” she said.
The 350-member safety force doesn’t carry guns, but they do carry handcuffs. Bethel says he’s also reviewing the policies on when cuffs can be used.