Saanich council asks SD61 to reinstate school liaison officer program, with modifications

Saanich council asks SD61 to reinstate school liaison officer program, with modifications

Saanich council is joining the call to reinstate police liaison officers in Greater Victoria schools, voting Monday night to write a letter to SD61 asking them to bring officers back into schools.

“We’re hoping the board will give consideration to our request to reintroduce the program with modifications,” said Dean Murdock, Saanich mayor.

What those modifications look like, the mayor wouldn’t say.

The issue of the lack of police liaison officers has come to a head as parents and Victoria Police vocalize their concerns of gang recruitment ramping up across SD61 schools.

In their only public facing response, a letter addressed to parents, the SD61 says the decision to fund the program, is up to Victoria Police

“To be clear the decision regarding whether to fund SPLO positions in the Victoria police department is not a decision that would be made by the Board of Education,” the statement reads.

Victoria’s Police Chief says the funding and officers needed to be repositioned, are ready to go.

“I’m ready to commit officers to this program,” Del Manak told the board.

B.C.’s Education Minister Rachna Singh says the decision to reinstate the program falls directly on the district.

“This decision came from the board. And we have communicated and this is my expectation that they would be listening to their concerns, especially when it comes to the safety of our kids,” said Singh.

The police liaison program was unanimously eliminated by SD61 last May after consulting with several groups, concerned with the disproportionately harmful effects the program had on racialized children in other jurisdictions.

“We know that other jurisdictions have shown police liaison officers have been really harmful to Black and Indigenous children for example and their families, and children with disabilities, we know that in B.C., certain policing practices have been shown to have really disproportionate impacts on the same communities,” said Kasari Govender, BC Human Rights Commissioner.

“We don’t have enough to say that we should run these programs. We don’t know if they do more good than harm and that’s why I’m asking for more research before we have these programs and these armed officers in our schools.”

Const. Mark Jenkins, a former teacher and police liaison officer says building a program that’s safe for everyone is fully within reach.

“I think there’s always room for improvement, can we wear a different uniform? I know that’s up for discussion. Absolutely,” said Jenkins. “Having that open dialogue with the trustees with the school board, with the community with the students…to build a program where everyone agrees and everyone has input is so important.”

Jenkins says he’s optimistic that a new police liaison role, based on restorative justice and relationship building the program has always been rooted in, can successfully evolve and work for every kid, family and community.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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