EDITORIAL: School Resource Officers were a win-win. Now we are all losing

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Ending the program in all school boards in the region represents a lost opportunity to build trust between minority students and the people we pay to serve and protect them.

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In many countries, the police are the enemy: corrupt, arbitrary, violent, racist. People are afraid of them. In Canada, however, children should not be taught to fear the police or to see them as enemies.

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Sadly, this is exactly the message sent to thousands of young people after the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board ended its long-standing “School Resource Officer” program with the Ottawa Police Service. This led the police to terminate the program in the four school boards in the region.

This is a lost opportunity to build trust between minority students and the people we pay to serve and protect them.

School resource officers – ORS for short – are police officers assigned to various schools. They explain the role of law enforcement to children, listen to student concerns, advise, mentor, put children in contact with community groups or supports and, yes, if there is violence or crime, they take action . Their role is to build relationships to make schools safer.

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The idea of ​​eliminating them arose from issues identified by the Black Lives Matter movement. We have seen many examples – the murder of George Floyd being the most striking – of individual police officers treating racial minorities horribly. Bad apples exist; the Ottawa police have their part. So many non-white students, it is believed, are traumatized by uniformed officers in schools. They fear that they will also become victims of poor law enforcement.

The cops, however, think their liaison role is important, as do many school officials. Most police officers only want to protect people, no matter where they are from. Indeed, Chief of Police Peter Sloly, who is black, called the ORS program “the Ottawa Police Service’s most important partnership in civil society.”

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He also offered to modify or update the program to correct any flaws that could be identified.

But that was not enough for the politically correct administrators of the OCDSB. Better to isolate the kids and the cops from each other, he decided (lest each start to sympathize with each other’s challenges?).

As a result, police are canceling the program in all four school boards (OCDSB was the largest participant). Speaking diplomatically, Sloly said police would “reinvest” in neighborhood policing and other initiatives.

Such programs are worthy, of course. But, to allay suspicion and build trust, there’s nothing like getting to know someone face to face. Instead, the school board chose to stir up antagonism. Pity.

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