Twenty more Toronto public high schools will each get a police officer on a full-time basis when students return to class in the fall, bringing the total number of schools with officers to 50, the police chief said Monday.
Last September, 30 high schools across the city were each assigned a police officer who worked full-time with students, and an additional 20 schools will each get an officer under the School Resource Officer program for the 2009-10 academic year, Chief Bill Blair said.
The program was the result of the Toronto District School Board's plan to increase school safety following a 2008 report on school violence by Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer, who headed a school community safety advisory panel established after the fatal shooting of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in May 2007.
The report made more than 100 recommendations, including buying sniffer dogs that would seek out guns in student lockers and other hiding places.
On Monday, Blair said having officers in schools has produced results, such as a drop in the number of criminal charges, but he said that's not the point of the program.
"We're not going to measure our success by the number of charges laid or drugs and weapons seized. The success of these programs is to prevent crime and prevent victimization," he said.
While Blair said officers in schools forge ties with students, not everyone is convinced. Toronto Beaches/East York trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher opposes having officers in the two public high schools in her area, Ward 16.
"It isn't the only answer, and I really resent that people think because there is a cop it will be hunky dory," she said.
But the majority of trustees, parents and principals support the plan because students tell them they feel safer, according to the heads of both the Toronto public and Catholic school boards.
"It can be kind of intimidating at first," said Daniel Kim, a Grade 11 student who learned an officer will be at Earl Haig Secondary School in September. "But if we see him every day we can accept him."