Greens question need for $750K budgeted for police resources in schools

A police officer was stationed at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown from 2010-2022.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
A police officer was stationed at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown from 2010-2022. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Questions are being raised about why the government is budgeting $750,000 to put police officers in schools instead of focusing on more mental health support for students.

School resource officers had been stationed at Charlottetown's two high schools for more than a decade until 2022. The officers dealt mainly with student safety and community engagement.

In December, Charlottetown Police Chief Brad MacConnell said due to staffing issues, the officers would be deployed elsewhere.

We are going to do our due diligence. — Education Minister Natalie Jameson

According to MacConnell, the city has 65 full-time police officers, including four new hires this year. But that is still 10 fewer officers than the regional average for a city force, he said.

The government included money in the budget for school resource officers, though it did not do an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program.

In the legislature Wednesday, Green Party MLA Karla Barnard said to her knowledge, schools have not requested that the police officers return.

"Teachers and students are not telling us they need more police. They're telling me they need more mental health and social supports for students."


Education Minister Natalie Jameson said students and school staff she has consulted have indicated support for the return of school resource officers. She noted the province is also investing in mental health through the hiring of more school counsellors.

Her department will also be reaching out for input from the province's child and youth advocate on the need for police officers in schools.

"Recognizing that this is still in its initial phases, we've only had a couple of schools whereby we did have these school resource officers. We are going to do our due diligence," she said.

"I feel there is a fit for our student resource officers and we're just going to make sure we do it right."

The debate comes as police resources appear to be stretched.

Last week, Downtown Charlottetown Inc., a group representing businesses in the city core, made a plea for more officers on the streets, especially during the busy summer months.

Under questioning from Bernard, Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson said he thinks police resources would be better used outside of schools, but it will require further discussion.

"It's a balance that we have to work with."