An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
B.C.’s HUMAN RIGHTS commissioner wants police liaison programs removed from schools.
Kasari Govender says school districts need to prove there’s an “evidence-based need” for the programs and claims indigenous, black and marginalized students feel uncomfortable with a police presence.
She made the comments as the Vancouver school board re-instated the program this week. To be sure, some parents agree with her — to listen to them, you’d think police officers were patrolling school hallways brandishing batons and assault rifles.
Certainly, there are times when the safety of students is threatened and a police presence is necessary but that’s not what the liaison programs are all about.
In the Kamloops district, for example, RCMP have been involved in anti-bullying presentations, public awareness campaigns and bicycle rodeos. When needed, they team up with the district and mental health workers to do Violent Threat Risk Assessments.
How can that be considered anything but positive? One administrator has previously said the district is “extremely grateful” for its excellent relationship with the RCMP.
Here’s the thing. How are police and the community — including our schools — supposed to develop good relationships for the greater good unless they work together in a transparent manner?
If police are seen by students, from a distance, to be faceless strangers with uniforms and badges who show up only when somebody’s in trouble, the necessary trust will never be developed.
But if they’re a familiar presence in a variety of roles, kids will feel confident in approaching them when they need help. Those who feel uncomfortable about police being around are exactly the ones who need to interact with them in a positive way.
How much more evidence-based can you get than developing positive connections between police and our schools and students?
Can schools get along without police liaison? Yes, and a lot of school districts do. But it’s clear that police liaison programs do a lot of good. They should be left alone.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at email@example.com.