© Brian McInnis - The Guardian
Const. Tim Keizer shows abox of pills found by a parent of a Colonel Gray High student Wednesday morning. It is filled with hydromorphone pills, including two ‘big reds,’ which each have a $95 street value. Keizer says opiate abuse and addiction among P.E.I. teens is a major problem across the province.
Commentary by Mitchell Tweel: I am disappointed that City Council did not explore any options and did not have the opportunity to debate and vote in an open public forum about police officers being stationed in the two city high schools starting in September.
At the August city council monthly meeting, it was unexpectedly announced that one police officer would be in each school full time until Nov. 8. After that, officers will spend only four hours per week in each school. This is not only unacceptable, it is counterproductive to the success that was achieved in the 2012 school year.
I would like to make it clear that I am a very strong supporter of police officers in both Charlottetown Rural High School and Colonel Gray Senior High School full time throughout the entire school year. I have consistently lobbied and will continued to do so until this city has full time police officers on a annual basis in both our city’s high schools.
When this particular program was announced, there was no motion, no resolution, and no real debate, just a brief discussion by a couple members of city council, while the majority of council was caught completely off guard. This is no way to conduct city business, this is not responsible government.
City council has never seen or has been given any information as to what it would cost for the installation of a police officer in a high school full time for the entire school year. Why the lack of openness and transparency to city council and more importantly the community?
Give us the facts and figures. City Council should examine the police budget. There is for example, $725,000 in overtime. This would be a good starting point. What are the valid options for council to assess and evaluate? Secondly, council passed a $50 million budget in 2013, but it is a work in progress. Council has at its disposal the flexibility to amend and the opportunity to change its priorities during the fiscal year. For example city council passed a recent resolution to award $200,000 to attract the P.E.I. Storm basketball team to the Charlottetown Civic Center.
The monthly package that members of city council received on the weekend prior to the council meeting on Monday's August meeting, that includes committee reports and resolutions, made absolutely no reference to the police officers program in the schools let alone any discussions or conclusions, whatsoever.
I doubt that the police committee even met on this important topic to discuss the four-hour week option which will begin on November 8.
One question that the affected communities have been asking since this premature announcement was made is, who came up with this option that the police would only be in the high schools for four hours a week?
Regardless of how in fact this option had originated, and whether negotiations were productive or not with the provincial government, City Council has a undeniable responsibility to take ownership of this police-officers- in-the- schools program and collectively decide how many hours and how many days the police officers will be in the schools after council becomes much more informed of what their roles and responsibilities are and how they collaborate with the high schools administration, the faculty, the student body and equally importantly, the engagement of the community.
Just a few years ago, I had made the recommendation, for the public record, that it is a top priority for the community to have police officers in our city high schools full time. This recommendation was based on the fact that I was hosting community meetings, and consulting with constituents throughout the neighborhoods and the greater community.
There are many residents that live around Colonel Gray High School for example who all have a strong interest in this issue and would like to become directly involved in the process. This community rightly deserves to have the same quality of life that exists in other parts of the city. After all they're paying big taxes and the same consideration and commitment from city hall needs to be adhered to 365 days of the year, with no exceptions.
At any level of government, the most effective and efficient formulation of public policy is when all elected representatives are directly involved and participating. If the majority of city council continues to allow decisions of this magnitude to be made by one or two members of council, then council proceedings will continue to be dysfunctional and irrational.
- Mitchell Tweel represents Ward 4 on Charlottetown