The city of Chicago has ordered its firefighters to provide security for public school students walking to and from class through the city's gang turf, according to an official memo from the Chicago Fire Department that WND obtained.
The memo, signed by Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, states that the fire department will have "a strong physical presence" along student walking routes for three weeks at the beginning of the school year in the fall.
"[I]t is critical that CFD assist in providing the children with reassurance during their travels," the memo reads. "This will be accomplished through our public presence, being good ambassadors to the children of Chicago and providing support when and if they require it."
But a Chicago police officer who insisted on anonymity said, "If the parents are so concerned about their children's security they should be walking their own kids to school.
"Let the reverends organize the parents to walk their kids to school but don't waste the precious resources of a police officer or fireman to do what parents should be doing," he said.
That officer believes that there is little hope of high-crime urban communities acting together for their own good.
"As far as police wondering where parents, churches, local leaders or community organizers are we know where they are. They are taking care of enriching themselves at the expense of the taxpayers while they rely on the city and the police to raise their children.
"These communities do not know shame," he said, and their "demented morality" wreaks devastation.
The plan to use firefighters for security is a byproduct of public school shutdowns, which have caused students to have to walk outside of their neighborhoods – thus crossing into rival gang territory at times.
In order to close a $1 billion budget deficit, the Chicago school district decided to close down 54 schools that were under-enrolled. By shutting down some schools and consolidating students into nearby schools, the district's goal is to save money on the operating costs that would have gone towards the under-enrolled schools. Enrollment in the district has dropped 20 percent over the last 10 years.
The Chicago school district announced that it will use the money saved to invest in air-conditioning, libraries, iPads for all students in grades 3-8, and programs for advanced students.
The school closings have drawn heated criticism. The Chicago teachers' union insisted that children will be in danger when they walk through hostile gang territory.
As part of the effort to protect students going to and from school, the Chicago school system began a Safe Passage program. However, community leaders are not satisfied, and they have directed their ire at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"He says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago. Does that new Chicago mean no black folks?" one asked.
Firefighters will join police officers as part of the effort to keep students safe as they walk to school through neighboring communities.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police responded to the firefighter guard plan by saying, "This is a tacit admission by the Chicago police department that we in fact do have a serous manpower problem."
WND reported on a potential Chicago police manpower shortage, which gained attention last month after a violent flash mob.
The Fraternal Order of Police expressed concerns that the firefighters are not trained for guard duty, and they will be at risk if asked to do so. The Chicago Police Department countered by saying that the walking routes are actually largely staffed by Safe Passage program personnel, and that there is no manpower shortage.
Danger on the way to and from school is not the end of the threat facing students.
"It's not only the walk to and from the schools," Alderwoman LaTasha Thomas said. "It's the climate inside the schools, because you've got two or three different areas in that school. They know each other. And whatever is happening on Friday or Saturday comes into the school on Monday or Tuesday from those different neighborhoods that may be at odds with each other."
News of the school closings caused intense criticism earlier this year. Activist Wendy Matil Pearson is quoted as saying, "I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bused, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school."
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis calls Emanuel "the murder mayor." "Look at the murder rate in this city. He's murdering schools, he's murdering good jobs. He's murdering housing. I don't know what else to call him. He's the murder mayor."
Lewis, who is black, called the school closings "racist." Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is black, rejected that charge.
The CFD memo adds to questions about disorder and crime in the Democratic stronghold of Chicago. Earlier this year, the police department announced that it would no longer reply immediately to 911 calls for some crimes, like burglaries and car thefts. That policy is intended to free up officers to focus on more serious and violent crimes.
This week saw the surprise announcement that one street gang has directed its members to kill Chicago police. A gang has formed a "hit squad," and an internal police document reportedly states, "The purpose of this squad will be to kill law enforcement officers."
A police sergeant in Chicago's Gang Enforcement Unit has said that violence in the city is "tribal warfare… and as it continues to build unless we manage to interdict it, and manage to stop it long enough for the blood to stop boiling, the heat to die down."
The police officer WND spoke with believes that what is happening in the Chicago ghettos is worse than a breakdown of law and order, because there can only be "a breakdown of the legal and social order" in a community "where legal and social order existed."
He is of the opinion that there hasn't been social order in the Chicago ghetto in over 40 years, since the expansion of federal welfare programs.