Alberni District Secondary School students are asking the city to pay for an RCMP youth liaison officer.
Morgan Williams, Emilie Bunt, Gracie Mitchell and Maddie O’Neil-Johns are all students in Anne Ostwald’s Social Justice 12 class. Together, they have put forward a campaign called “A Cup For A Cop”—named because the monthly taxpayer increase for a full-time RCMP youth liaison officer would be less than the cost of a coffee from Tim Hortons.
The students were at city council’s budget meeting on Monday, Jan. 15, asking for the city to add another member to the RCMP’s 34-member team, specifically dedicated to the job of youth liaison officer.
According to the students’ math, the cost of another full-time officer would be around $170,000, or a $1.80 per month increase for residential taxpayers.
As of Monday evening, they had a paper petition with 264 signatures and an online petition with 164 signatures. The petition is still open and can be found at www.change.org/p/mayor-council-a-cup-for-a-cop.
The youth liaison officer, they explained, is more than just a police officer, often acting as a role model and counsellor for students.
Williams noted that there are 34 RCMP members for the 18,000 people in the Alberni Valley, which is a ratio of 1 to 529. “Our school has 1,232 staff and students,” Williams pointed out.
Although the school has a temporary youth liaison officer, he has been reassigned since early December to perform other policing duties in the community. The Social Justice 12 class is looking for a permanent, dedicated officer.
“We’re getting to that age where you’re being exposed to all these different things,” said Bunt. “We’re actually growing up and we’re becoming real world citizens. I think that Kindergarten to Grade 12, it’s your trial life. You have a free trial, like a Netflix subscription.”
The youth liaison officer, she said, would assist by providing a positive role model and establishing invaluable relationships with students.
O’Neil-Johns pointed out that the youth liaison officer would be available to all Alberni Valley schools, not just ADSS.
Council asked RCMP Inspector Brian Hunter to bring a report to the next round table budget meeting to provide some information and options.
In order to manage costs, city CAO Tim Pley also announced on Monday that the city is planning the reduction of one RCMP member in 2019, bringing the total number of officers down to 33.