The Edmonton Police Association says the assault of a Grade 10 student on a public school playground is evidence school resource officers – police members – should be back on public campuses.
According to EPA president Sgt. Mike Elliott, officers have been called in the last week about an investigation where it was discovered two students had been sexually assaulted, a threat against a superintendent, and a man believed to be high on meth trying to rob a preteen student.
“Luckily, this case was a Catholic school and there was an SRO present,” he told CTV News Edmonton of the last incident.
“That’s all this week.”
His comments were made after a Nov. 18 video of a student being assaulted at J. Percy Page School surfaced online.
Elliott said he’s concerned about the handling of “severe incidents” such as these given a September decision by the public school board to temporarily suspend the SRO program during a review.
“We’ve had gun calls. We’ve had drug dealers (who) will not leave the property,” he recalled. “A student was doing a hitlist, and we don’t know if that was against the students or who else, but police had to respond to that and found a fake gun in a locker belonging to a student.”
Edmonton Public School Board chair Trisha Estabrooks called the J. Percy Page assault disturbing and shocking, and noted similar incidents have happened over the years.
However, she called the review important work that would examine the experiences of students of colour, marginalized communities and with disabilities.
“Edmonton Public Schools works closely with police and has partnered with Edmonton Police Service on the current model, which uses officers who are trained to work with young people to respond to calls in our schools,” a statement from the trustee read.
“I remain confident in the ability of our police service to respond to schools and communities when they are needed in emergency situations.”
The model she refers to is called the Youth Enhanced Deployment model, which uses EPS officers who have community policing duties and are trained to respond to calls involving young people. They are not assigned or based in any of Edmonton’s public schools.
Instead, if public schools need emergency assistance, they call 911 and a YED constable, if available, will be dispatched.
The program was designed in April when the pandemic forced schools to close.
Elliott says it’s not the review he’s opposed to, but the pausing of the program pending its findings.
“I understand the review process. I’m open to a review. But the way I look at is please don’t close down the SRO program while you’re doing that review,” he told CTV News Edmonton.
EPSB could not confirm what progress has been made on the review, but said an update would be “shared soon.”
Edmonton Police Service continues to provide 15 SROs to the city’s Catholic schools, and one SRO to the Edmonton Islamic Academy.
The SRO program was first instated in Edmonton public schools in 1979.