A school resource officer (SRO) position for the rural Leduc County schools has been awarded full financial support by county council.
The cost to the county for an enhanced SRO is $155,000 annually for the three year period.
Leduc RCMP staff Sgt. Al Gulash says council also had the option to finance a short-term enhanced service but it would not have produced the same results and benefits of a full position. “The problem is you have no consistency. You’ll have different members going in and out of the schools.”
Gulash says the best results that can be achieved with an SRO stem from trust and relationships they are able to build with the students and schools.
“Most interaction between a youth and a RCMP member or (community police officer) is negative,” said Gulash.
“Our youth are faced with a lot more complicated issues today. There’s a lot of different issues that come to a foreground,” he added, citing bullying, cyber-bullying, sexting and peer pressure.
Trust in a SRO within schools can lead to increased assistance and awareness of issues troubling students, says Gulash. “That includes the family units as well.”
The funds are part of the county’s 2017 budget but council made its decision during the same meeting the item was presented — May 10 — as the request must be submitted by June 2016. The money will come from Leduc County’s Aggregate Levy Fund.
Coun. Tanni Doblanko was hesitant to make a decision so quickly and felt council was cutting itself off from an opportunity to work with collaborative partners.
Despite approving a motion to support the SRO program, council will still submit a letter of intent to the province and in a second motion agreed to reach out to other jurisdictions in the region to collaborate on the position and make additional financial contributions.
Coun. Clay Stumph conceded council should seek additional funding from collaborative partners but wanted council to make an immediate decision to meet the tight deadline. “If we have to pay for it all so be it. We do have the funding available.”
A stipulation of council’s approval is it will have input on what schools the SRO visits. Doblanko was concerned, stating, “bigger schools are perceived to have bigger problems.”
Coun. Audrey Kelto expressed her wish the position would not only focus on junior and senior high students but the younger ones as well. “I’m a very strong believer prevention dollars are cheaper than treatment dollars.”