Victoria to consider motion asking for school liaison officers to be reinstated in SD 61

Victoria to consider motion asking for school liaison officers to be reinstated in SD 61
File photo of the Greater Victoria School District offices.

A Victoria councillor has put forward a motion to send a letter to the Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) asking for school liaison officers to be reinstated.

Last year, the Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) board voted to remove school liaison officers from its schools, citing the lack of oversight the district has over officers that enter the schools as an issue.

“One of the challenges from an accountability perspective is that the district, we don’t direct the work of the police, so where there’s concern or complaints there is a lack of clarity and clear process of how that would be dealt with,” said Nicole Duncan, chair of the school board said in May 2023 during the meeting where the program was ended.

“In theory, an individual would have to go down possibly multiple complaints tracks, both complaining through the appropriate police complaints process and then simply complaining using the district process as well. It’s unclear what remedy, if any, the district could offer because again, our mandate is not to oversee the police.”

READ PREVIOUS: SD 61 board unanimously votes to end school police liaison program

This removal came five years after Victoria Police pulled its officers from schools, instead redeploying those officers to frontline patrols. Saanich Police, Oak Bay Police and RCMP continued to operate in SD 61 schools.

Now, police are saying there is an increase in gang recruitment in schools in the region, which has spurred calls for the program to be reinstated.

READ PREVIOUS: Parents hold rally outside SD61 offices to call for return of school liaison officers

A council member motion from Coun. Marg Gardiner may see Victoria joining the ranks of those calling for the return of the program.

“The primary roles of a School Police Liaison Officer are education and to thwart criminal exploitation of our youth,” Gardiner wrote in her motion. “Officers becoming familiar with each school, and its specific population of students, assist in building relationships: they become familiar people to talk to, especially for the more vulnerable youth.”

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner has previously called for the end of school liaison officer programs, saying BIPOC parents and students have raised significant concerns about the harm caused by having police in schools.

READ PREVIOUS: Human Rights Commissioner calls for an end to police officer program in B.C. schools

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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