Brampton Students Feel Safer With Police in Schools: Study

High school students in Brampton and Mississauga feel safer with a uniformed police presence, a Carleton University study analyzing the Peel police program finds.

Having School Resource Officers (SROs) in-house means students perform better in school, have less stress and anxiety, and aren’t as afraid of being bullied or physically harmed, according to new research.

The data from this study provides strong support for the idea that the SRO program administered by Peel police meets its goals of increasing students’ perceptions of safety both within the school and in the school’s catchment area,” reads the analysis.

The study, led by Carleton’s business professor Dr. Linda Duxbury and psychology professor Dr. Craig Bennell, was released on Jan. 10.

Research was conducted over three years, from 2014 to 2017, and included five schools in the region, examining its use of uniformed officers in the halls.

Other benefits of SROs include freeing up front-line patrol officers from being dispatched to schools, helping teens with mental health issues, and providing diversion for at-risk students, giving them a chance to have a meaningful future and reducing the likelihood of getting a criminal record by keeping them ‘out of the system.’

Having full-time SROs in high schools is “rare, as police services around the world have responded to pressures to economize by removing officers from schools and either eliminating the role of the SRO or having one officer attend to many schools,” the study reads.

That includes the Greater Toronto Area.

In Nov. 2017 the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted in favour of ending its program after a report found the program made some students feel intimidated or uncomfortable.

But Grade 9 students in Peel are saying otherwise.

  • I was bullied like throughout last year and that was a big issue for me. Like all of Grade eight… this school is a lot safer compared to all the other schools…,” said one student.
  • Would you talk to the police? Absolutely. My friends who go to schools where there are no police have a pretty different view though…like the police are bad and they don’t want to have any communication with them…here it’s more like, they are like your friends, you speak to them if you have any problems…,” wrote another teen.
  • I like how like their presence affects other students and how students think twice because students are like…Oh if I do this then this will happen, and then it makes them realize that whatever they’re about to do is a negative decision and they do the right decision instead of the wrong,” said a third student.

School administrators were also surveyed.

  • Without the SRO, we would be calling 911 all the time,” said one official.
  • Another weighed in on relationships, saying ” … For the kids, I think a lot of students in our area specifically are raised to be fearful of police authority, so it’s nice for them to have that opportunity to build that relationship with an officer and to feel that sense of safety …”

Finally, SROs weighed in on their roles.

  • … There’s a lot of kids that when we look at last names … you know, their one brother is in jail for first-degree murder, their other brother is in jail for drugs and guns, and their cousin and stepdad and … this and that. I mean, they’re all so closely tied to a lot of people who are in bad spots. They’re either dead or doing hard time. Just I think for me, it’s those tough kids … If you can crack that nut … it’s connecting with them. Helping them with their problems. Being somebody that they feel they can approach you … I think that’s the most rewarding part is helping that kid and making a difference in their life, as cheesy as that sounds,” said one officer.
  • Another SRO addressed the value of diversions, saying “if that same assault had happened on a bus or in public, he would likely have been charged criminally…as it is he won’t have any consequences other than penalties imposed by the school. So because we know what the school’s doing…and we know the background on the suspect… we decided that a criminal charge would probably not be in the best interests of him or society…”

Then there’s intelligence: SROs have been making valuable links to cases involving the robbery, drugs, and special victims units, analysis finds.

In addition, actions taken by SROs also increase “the efficiency of police investigations as well as solvency rates,” the study reads, meaning investigations experience fewer delays and take less time.

Overall, “we feel the results of the research confirm what we already believe to be true,” said Peel Regional Police spokeswoman Const. Rachel Gibbs.

SROs are in schools to build relationships and create a safer environment for learning — not for enforcement, she added.

The research is overwhelmingly positive and that speaks volumes about the relationships our officers are building within Peel schools,” Gibbs said.

The SRO program costs taxpayers more than $9 million per year but the social return on investment (SROI) is substantial.

SROI calculations determined that the social and economic return on the total investment of $660,289, (the cost of running the SRO program in the five schools in the study) yielded a total present value of $7,349,301,” the study finds.

This means “for every dollar invested in the Peel SRO program, a minimum of $11.13 of social and economic value was created.”

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof says that’s all the more reason for police service boards across Ontario to realize the value of professional policing.

It’s a warning for the government that’s attempting to introduce other models,” said Skof.


NUMBERS, NUMBERS

  • There are 60 SROs working in the schools and school catchment areas in Peel Region.
  • They’re supervised by eight sergeants and four staff sergeants.
  • The total cost of the program is $9,004,880 per year (excluding costs for uniforms, law enforcement supplies, etc.).
  • Schools in the study are located in different neighborhoods: two are designated “urban-grant” schools and are in socio-economically challenged areas, one school was in an affluent community, and two schools are in middle-class communities.
  • Four of the five schools have ethnically diverse student populations.

(Source: Assigning Value to Peel Regional Police’s School Resource Officer Program)


Photo courtesy of Peel Regional Police

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