More police in Toronto schools this year

  • September 3, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - After a successful first year of school-based policing, 20 more officers will be patrolling hallways this  September to bring the total number of officers in schools to 50, says Toronto Police.

“These officers approached these assignments with insatiable energy and dedication. As a result, we have created new relationships with young people all over Toronto. They, in turn have come to respect police officers on an entirely different level,” said Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair in a statement.

Four of the 20 new police officers will be assigned to Toronto Catholic District School Board schools: Msgr. Percy Johnson, St. Basil-the-Great, Senator O’Connor and Francis Libermann. With these additions, 12 of Toronto’s 25 Catholic high schools will have a police presence.

Director of education Ann Perron said the Catholic board welcomes the program’s expansion.

Schools with police

There will be a police presence in the following 12 Toronto Catholic high schools:

  • Archbishop Romero
  • Bishop Marroco/Thomas Merton
  • Cardinal Newman
  • Don Bosco
  • Francis Libermann
  • James Cardinal McGuigan
  • Mary Ward
  • Michael Power/St. Joseph
  • Msgr. Percy Johnson
  • St. Basil-the-Great
  • Senator O’Connor
  • St. Patrick
“Over the last year, our students have benefited from the outstanding leadership, positive mentorship and friendly faces this program brings to our schools,” she said in a statement.

When the program was first introduced last year, the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education had voiced concerns about the lack of consultation with parents and student councils.

But this year, Peter Barrans, co-ordinator of the safe schools department at the TCDSB, said there is “overwhelming support” from both parents and students for the officers assigned last year at eight Catholic schools. Those who were interviewed said they felt safer in school with the officers there, Barrans added.

Due to the program’s success, all Toronto Catholic high schools have requested an officer for their school, he said. Barrans said the primary purpose of the program is not safety, but on building positive relationships between schools, students and police.

The new officers will be placed at schools located within police divisions and near elementary schools and not necessarily in at-risk neighbourhoods.

Since last February, Barrans noted that there has been a 20-per-cent decrease in board-wide suspensions. He attributed the decrease to a combination of the police presence in schools and Bill 212, the the Safe Schools Act introduced last year, which gave school boards $44 million to establish alternative programs for suspended and expelled students and hire 170 social workers and psychologists.

Toronto Police public information officer Meaghan Gray said anecdotal evidence points to a successful program. Police officers went “above and beyond” their role at the school and became involved in school programs like coaching sports teams, helping with music classes and other after-school activities, she said.

According to Barrans, the program has resulted in a better relationship between students and police.

“A successful school is a safe school and a safe school is a successful school,” Barrans said.

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