Los Angeles School Police Department Deputy Chief Leslie Ramirez was named interim chief of the department Thursday following Chief Todd Chamberlain’s resignation.
Chamberlain stepped down from the post Wednesday, 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.
Ramirez, whose appointment is effective immediately, began her career as a campus officer in 1991 and has since served as detective, sergeant, lieutenant, adjutant to the chief of police and deputy chief of police, according to an official with the Los Angeles Unified School District. She also serves on the executive board of the California K-12 Police Chief’s Association.
“I am honored to have been selected as Interim Chief of Los Angeles School Police,” Ramirez said. “In the weeks ahead, we will begin the process of reviewing and evaluating our operational plan and objectives. Our focus will be to maximize our deployment strategy while minimizing the impact to students, staff and our personnel.”
“What remains unchanged is the importance of our role and our mission to maintain the safest educational environments throughout Los Angeles Unified.”
Chamberlain’s decision to resign 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. He became chief of school police in December after retiring as a commander with the Los Angeles Police 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 reimagine 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 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 groundbreaking 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.”