Propaganda. First, statistics merely suggest cause and effect, they do not prove it. And the point isn’t even that this might not be efficacious in the short term – totalitarian societies have always given themselves plaudits for ‘efficiency’ and ‘public safety’. But do you want morality enforced through intimidation, or ingrained into the moral compass of a child through rational persuasion and example? The former destroys the fabric of a society’s liberties by inverting the principle that it is the state that serves the individual – not the other way around. Of course the fascist shift begins with legitimate-sounding reasons: Ohh, it’s for the children that they need to get used to seeing armed figures of authority in every part of their lives. Oh, we should start fingerprinting or face scanning them for access next, just like in England and Scotland. Oh, perhaps we should bring back the idea of random drug dog locker searches. Oh, it’s for your security that you need to take your shoes off, your bottled water taken away, and be subjected to an electronic strip-search at the airport just like a slave. Oh, we should do this on buses too. Oh, nevermind the TAVIS camera initiative, it would be good to hand some surveillance firm a fat contract to put thousands up so you can be imaged hundreds of times a day like in London, despite the fact it doesn’t prevent crime. We used to associate these breaches with totalitarian states. Lie down, remain silent, and these control systems will continue to constrict our lives in Canada, until one day our children will wake up in a culture in which they live by privilege and permission rather than right.
Timothy Appleby, The Globe and Mail
February 5, 2009
Attendance is up and criminal charges down as officers show their human side to connect with students
For eight tough years Constable Gavin Jansz belonged to the Toronto Police Service’s gun and gang unit, less known for being warm and friendly than for barging through doors unexpectedly, armed to the teeth.
But at the Christmas concert for James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School in December, Constable Jansz looked decidedly different.
Along with a clutch of male teachers he had a role in The Nutcracker Suite, clad in a pink tutu. On a cold, snowy night the auditorium was packed and the appreciative crowd howled. [Ed. Note: Oh, it's all okay then. Ha ha.]
Constable Jansz is one of 30 Toronto police officers assigned to 30 different high schools across the city. And when the program began in September, some critics predicted the worst.
Some critics, it seems, were wrong.
At the 22 Toronto District School Board schools with a full-time police presence, attendance is up and criminal charges down. Anecdotally, a similar picture emerges at the eight Catholic schools taking part.
Still 100-per-cent cop and still mostly in uniform, deployed at a 650-pupil school not far from where he used to be a gang-buster in North York’s 31 Division, Constable Jansz coaches basketball, helps out in numerous other ways and is a sign of changing times.
“The students could laugh at me, know that I’m able to laugh at myself and see that there’s a human beneath that uniform,” he says of his ballet debut.
When he and his 29 colleagues began their new jobs, partly in response to a blistering school-safety report delivered earlier in the year, there were ominous warnings the project might backfire.
“To have them walking the halls and wearing guns in high schools, where guns are a problem, is mind-blowing to me,” one public school trustee said at the time.
Some schools, moreover, wanted no part of the program, including North York’s C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, site of the fatal 2007 shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Manners that was the genesis of that school-safety report. By a narrow margin, parents decided a police presence might create more problems than it solved.
But data from the 22 public schools where officers were placed show a 17-per-cent decline in student suspensions during the past semester, compared with a year earlier, and a 16-per-cent drop in criminal charges.
To Staff Sergeant Sharon Davis, who co-ordinates the police end of the program, that second statistic speaks volumes.
“Anybody who ends up needing to be arrested — that’s a failure,” she said. “Once young people enter the criminal justice system, all the studies show that their chances of success in life — finishing school, having a good job — are diminished.”
The Toronto Catholic District School Board is still compiling figures for its eight participating schools.
“But we have lots of anecdotal stuff that suggests things are going well and that the kids like the officers, and that on that basis alone it’s been successful,” said Paul Crawford, who oversees the board’s safety file.
As a result, both boards want the School Resource Officer program expanded.
Numerous other Canadian cities and jurisdictions have comparable programs, and Toronto has long participated in Empowered Student Partnerships, promoting school safety through police-pupil dialogue.
Crime Stoppers schools officer Constable Scott Mills, too, is a familiar figure in some of the city’s more challenging classrooms.
What sets the SROs apart, however, is the range of activities in which they participate.
TDSB executive superintendent Donna Quan joins board chair John Campbell in suggesting the success reflects the fact that “students have seen that the police officers in the schools are people they can go and talk to.… Those officers have made a sincere effort to get to know the schools, and be part of them.”
The guiding principle of the program has evolved to the realization that dealing with problems such as minor drug use, mischief and petty theft, discretion laced with warnings and no-nonsense advice can be vastly more productive than dragging a young person into the jaws of the justice system.
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