EDMONTON – A rural community wants the NDP government to directly pay for the cost of police officers who work in Alberta schools.
Sturgeon County is to present a resolution to the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties this week that calls on the province to provide dedicated funding for school resource officers.
Coun. Susan Evans said some rural school boards and municipalities that have been sharing the cost are struggling to pay for the program.
“Because the funding isn’t sustainable and not predictable from year to year you never know if that program is going to be there,” she said in an interview.
“A school has to make a choice either to fund student safety or education.”
School resource officers mentor students, teach anti-drug courses and online bullying prevention and enforce the law, mainly in high schools.
Many rural communities depend on RCMP for these officers. In Edmonton and Calgary the officers are city police.
Evans said the officers benefit students, families and their communities.
The lack of direct funding represents a downloading of the province’s responsibility to fund safe and secure schools onto communities and school boards, she said.
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the province already spends more than $500 million for municipal and provincial policing services throughout the province.
“Our main priority is ensuring front line officers are available to keep Albertans safe,” she said in an email.
“Under the current model, smaller municipalities are permitted to fund enhanced resources, such as school resource officers, that will benefit their communities.”
In 2013 the association that represents Alberta’s police commissions said inadequate funding was limiting the placement of police resource officers in schools.
The Alberta Association of Police Governance passed a motion calling on the former Progressive Conservative government to take action.
Former justice minister Jonathan Denis responded with a letter in 2013 saying he supported the idea in principle, but, “given the current fiscal climate of restraint the province is not planning to provide financial assistance in the foreseeable future.”
The government at the time said it was up to municipalities and police to decide how to best spend their funding.
The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties represents 69 communities in rural areas.
Evans said she believes the resolution will receive solid support when it comes to a vote.
“I think other communities feel the same way,” she said. “It is time to recognize the value of this program.”