A Public Statement by NO COPS (Neighbourhood Organizing Coalition Against Police in Schools)
Toronto Police Services’ own report on the School Resource Officer program shows that the program has had no positive impact toward any of its claimed goals.
Toronto – November 25, 2009: The Neighbourhood Organized Coalition Opposed to Police in Schools (NOCOPS) questions whether the Toronto Police Services (TPS) misinterpreted or misrepresented the data from the 2008/2009 School Resource Officer (SRO)Program Evaluation Report. NOCOPS is a coalition of concerned parents, students, teachers and community members who have been monitoring the SRO program since its implementation in September, 2007
“If this report had been written by a student, it would definitely not pass as it draws conclusions contrary to its own data” said NOCOPS member and teacher James Campbell.
The Evaluation Report was released to the public on November 18, 2009 with claims that the data suggests the SRO program has been “beneficial to crime prevention, crime reporting and relationship building in schools and surrounding neighbourhoods.”
Yet an unbiased review of the data reveals that the report has had zero impact on student perception of safety and zero impact on student willingness to report crimes.
To quote from the report itself, “overall student perception of safety in their school and in the neighbourhood surrounding the school did not improve”. In fact, there was no increase in feelings that the SRO made the school safer even for students who had talked to the SRO informally or about a problem they were having. Perhaps of greatest concern is that the report confirms that many students feel less safe with SROs in the schools, as those students “who thought [the program] was a bad idea were more likely to say they did not feel safe (18%)”.
The data also shows that overall the presence of an SRO did not change students’ willingness to report being a victim or a witness to a crime.
The report also provides no credible data that the SRO program made any impact on reducing crime in or around school grounds. For this part of the report the TPS compared total number of offences and victimization from the 2007-2008 school year and the 2008-2009 school year – both on school grounds and within 200 meters of school grounds over all times of the day and concluded that “offences and victimization generally decreased in 2008/2009 compared to the previous school year”.
However, there were serious reliability problems with different aspects of how this crime data was analyzed. The study did not use any control (that is, collecting and comparing similar crime data from schools that did not have an SRO) or factor in overall reduction in crime statistics in the 2008/2009 school year compared to the 2007/2008 school year.
In addition, some of the data for this portion of the study was too small to have any statistical relevance. For example, data for incidence of victimization on school grounds during school hours compared only 2 incidents in 2007/2008 to zero incidents in 2008/2009 in a single school, generating an impressive (but statistically meaningless) 100% decrease in victimization.
Further, when comparing crime in SRO schools at the beginning of the program and at the end of the program, the report says that “When the geographical area for reported victimizations was expanded to 200 meters around the school, however, there were fewer victims over all hours and outside of school hours, but there were more victims during school hours.”[Emphasis added] The data suggests that the presence of SROs inside these schools has only served to displace victimization incidents off of school property.
NOCOPS community member Alok Premjee emphasized that “The survey methodology for the evaluation is seriously suspect and would not come close to meeting the basic requirements of any government funded program analysis, let alone be considered adequate justification for a program that costs over 5 million dollars per year to run. Among other things, there was no opportunity for students to respond if they had been negatively impacted by the SRO. The troubling arrest of a student at Northern Secondary is only one highly publicized event among numerous incidences we have documented where students have felt violated or targeted by the SRO at their school”.
The TPS misrepresentation of the results from this study is no surprise since the TPS not only initiated the program, but also developed the surveys, analyzed the data and wrote the report. There has been no independent evaluation with absolutely zero independent input anywhere. Even the most highly touted piece of data (suggesting an 11% increase in the proportion of students who felt the relationship between police and students was good or excellent) is inconsequential since the proportion of students who felt the relationship was poor or fair showed no significant change. Essentially, students who already felt comfortable with the police and liked the program and students who did not feel comfortable with the police and felt the SRO program was a bad idea felt exactly the same way a year later.
As stated by NOCOPS member and parent Niraj Joshi “it is particularly troubling that the TPS is using the study to recommend additional investment of precious funds and institutional resources in this failed program. We should not be wasting taxpayer money on the universally unproven and yet costly experiment of the SRO program. Instead, the TDSB and the province must allocate these provincial funds toward immediately implementing the recommendations put forward from two independent community consultations (the Falconer Report on School Safety and the Curling-McMurtry Report on the Roots of Youth Violence) for both engaging youth and making our schools safer”.
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