One day after a divided school board slashed his agency’s budget by 35% in response to a wave of community protests calling for a defunding of law enforcement, Los Angeles School Police Chief Todd Chamberlain resigned from his post Wednesday.
“After humbly serving my communities, departments 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,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “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.”
There was no immediate word on who will take over leadership of the department.
“More information on the department leadership transition will be forthcoming,” a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman told City News Service.
Chamberlain, a 33-year law enforcement veteran, became chief of school police in December. He took the job after retiring as a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department.
His decision follows a late-night Tuesday vote by the LAUSD Board of Education to reduce the school police budget by $25 million in response to weeks of protests by student activists and community groups who had called for the elimination of the department.
The board action on Tuesday also calls for officers to give up their uniforms and patrol off campus. Chamberlain told the board during the meeting the cut would lead to the layoffs of 65 officers in the 471-employee department.
The board motion called for the money to be redirected to fund staff to specifically serve the needs of Black students and a task force that will study ways to re-imagine the issue of student and campus safety.
“L.A. Unified has to continued to be a leader in showing what can happen when we believe in self-determination, when we empower communities to help this organization transform itself,” board member Monica Garcia said.
The 4-3 vote was supported by Garcia, Jackie Goldberg, Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez. Opposing the move were board President Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson — all retired longtime school administrators who expressed concerns about safety risks.
Last week, the school board rejected a trio of motions aimed at cutting the department’s funding, unable to come to any sort of consensus on the issue. During that meeting, McKenna gave a lengthy, impassioned defense of school police and warned the board against making a knee-jerk decision in response to nationwide protests calling for defunding of law enforcement. He said school police “are being unfairly demonized.”
Proponents of defunding have countered that police are an intimidating presence on school campuses, particularly to Black students.
Goldberg’s chief of staff, Sharon Delugach, said Tuesday night that the resolution also would require officers to be unarmed and would prohibit the use of pepper spray. However, those provisions were not in the resolution read aloud to the board.
The portion of Garcia’s language that was preserved said the money saved would go to “support African American student achievement to the extent of the law.” And until safety alternatives are worked out, all schools would have access “to appropriate community support in the event of an emergency.”
Just before the vote, Garcia added an amendment that would bar the school district from replacing the school police by contracting with the Los Angeles police, the county sheriff’s department or a private security force.
The vote to reduce the police force came at the end of a 13-hour meeting that started with public comments over the issue, which has roiled the school district since June 8, when leaders of the teachers’ union joined with activists and called for the elimination of the police department.
“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,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said Wednesday, her first day on the job after taking over for former president Alex Caputo-Pearl. “It was the power and passion in the streets across L.A. and this country, uplifting the voices of Black students, educators and families that made this happen. We can’t let up. We must keep fighting for our babies and our students.”
The California Charter Schools Association said the board had taken “meaningful action to move our public school system forward by investing in resources, services, and supports that both create safe school campuses and also promote the well-being and learning of every child.”
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