When school reopens in the fall students will see more than their teachers and friends, they will see uniformed police officers on and around their respective campuses.
Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard told the Bahama Journal that the government’s school-based programme will be re-introduced in a modified format.
He said the programme is a component of Project Safe Bahamas.
“One of the things that is part of our 100-day agenda is school policing,” the national security minister said.
“The minister of education [Jerome Fitzgerald] has consulted with his principals and the administrators and we have agreed that school policing will be re-introduced in September in a different form. We want to make sure there are clear lines of authority, like who is in charge of the school, bringing on board the security officers and having them work along with the police. There will also be police officers on the outskirts of the school campuses.”
Dr. Nottage also explained that the officers will assist with truancy in several communities.
“There is quite a bit of that in our country,” he said. “If you walk anywhere you will find young men and sometimes young women on the parks or on Bay Street and other places and we really need to curb that.”
“Police are also concerned about what happens at the bus stops and on the buses, so we will try to tailor the school based policing so that not only is there enforcement on school campuses but a general attempt to change the environment and help our young people to be able to make the best use of their education.”
He explained that not many people have the opportunity to get free education so the government must be able to equip students to qualify for tertiary education.
“The school based policing will also be in Grand Bahama and Abaco in the first instance and to the extent that it is needed elsewhere we will deal with those islands. The venture is not costly to the government, but it is a matter of shuffling human resources on the force but it’s an area where police reserves can serve beneficially,” he said.
“One of the things principals told the education minister they are concerned about is that sometimes the relationships that develop between police officers and students are not healthy so this gives us an opportunity to use some reserves and retired police officers who are relatively young and competent.”
The national security minister said these officers will maintain a parental-type relationship with the students rather than a “friend-to-friend” relationship.
“We are very hopeful that what we can do with school-based policing is not only reducing the violent incidences on campus but also making sure the communities surrounding them are safe as well,” Dr. Nottage explained.
“We need to focus on our youth when it comes to fighting crime. If you look at our crime statistics and the violent crimes, the people who are involved are young people and I think we owe it to ourselves and to them to provide them with every opportunity to have a different perspective on their lives. We need to show them the value of attending school and staying in school and getting the best education they can get, after all it is free.”