SCHOOL BASED POLICE – PROGRAM RESURRECTION WILL BE A REAL PLUS

This was published in the NT Sun on May 29 2018.

The subject is one very close to my heart.

PROGRAM RESURRECTION WILL BE A REAL PLUS

The NT Government is considering the reinstatement of the School Based Policing program. That is indeed good news! Reintroduction would be proof positive governments are prepared to accept that not all policy changes have been for the best.

The axing of the school based policing program from Territory schools was one of the worst decisions ever made. Judith Aisthorpe was absolutely right in reporting that when introduced in NT Schools in the 1980’s, “the program was heralded a success and adopted worldwide … the program in its original state was beneficial as it stopped crime and anti-social behaviour before it happened”. (Back to school for cops, NT News, 28/5/2018)

The School Based Policing program, introduced in the 1980’s, was a ‘top drawer’ initiative. Attached to high schools, each School Based Constable (SBC) had a number of feeder primary schools he or she attended. Constables would visit their schools to conduct Drug and Alcohol Education classes with children. They extended their role to include ‘stranger danger’ awareness and issues such as bullying.

Children used to appreciate ‘their’ constable in a way that helped them build positive feelings toward police. Social awareness and responsibility was an element of the program that helped students recognise their social and moral obligations.

In turn, constables became aware of important community issues that might require intervention. Appreciation and respect for law and order grew from this program.

The dismantling of the School Based Policing program with the substitution of police station based ‘Youth Engagement Officers’, was tokenistic. Key school programs lapsed, along with the contribution SBC’s made to the sharing of children’s learning and development of their attitudes. The changes went against the advice Territorians offered to government when regional meetings floating proposed changes were held. Those meetings urged the retention and strengthening of the program as it existed at the time. Notwithstanding community advice, changes were made. The program became far less effective and meaningful than had been the case.

The NT School Based Constable program was studied and adopted by police jurisdictions interstate and overseas. It was instrumental in developing healthy attitudes in young people toward law and order issues. Respect for law and order and acceptance of social responsibility is now at a low point within our Territory culture. That in part is due to the discounting of what was a highly successful and effective initiative. Now is the time to revisit and reinstate what was a most successful school and extra-curricular program.

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