Future of Calgary school-based police officers goes to the public

The catalyst for the review was three days of public hearings chaired by Carra last summer that delved into systemic racism in the city

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The future — and even existence — of school resource police officers in Calgary could be decided in a final round of public consultations beginning this week driven by efforts targeting systemic racism.

Forty-five years after the first officers were embedded in Calgary schools to prevent crime and improve relations with youth, students, parents and educators will meet up for online discussions to weigh the concept’s merits.

It’s possible the process could lead to the concept’s end or to reforms strengthening it, said city Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who sits on the Calgary Police Commission.

“It’ll look at whether or how to reform the program or if it gets lumped into those alternative relocation of resources,” he said.

The catalyst for the review was three days of public hearings chaired by Carra last summer that delved into systemic racism in the city.

What the inquiry heard about the school resource officers was often less than flattering, he said.

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“What we definitely heard from the BIPOC community was their challenging relationship with Calgary police and that having police officers in school was a problematic relationship … that it’s a system of systemic oppression,” said Carra.

“It came across as not as wholesome as many of us thought. It was pretty poignant.”

But he said the consultation could well conclude the positives of the program outweigh any negatives.

Phase one of the consultation resulted in 1,400 responses from students, teachers, parents, school administrators and police officers.

An online engagement portal for students and youth will be accepting feedback until May 17 and can be accessed here.

Virtual conversations will be held Wednesday and Thursday of this week and will involve registered parents, teachers and educators with the Calgary public and separate school boards, the Palliser School Distric and the FrancoSud School Board.

“As a Service, we understand our intent of this program and this review will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the impact it has had on the lives of students, families, teachers and school staff,” Superintendent Asif Rashid of the Calgary Police Service Strategic Planning and Partnerships Division said in a statement.

“Calgarians have told us that they want us to look at what the police does and how they do it. As well, they want us to engage with the community to ensure they are better served.”

City police have been working to strengthen relationships with Calgarians since the process went before city council last fall, said Deputy Chief Katie McLellan of the Bureau of Service and Community Support.

“We know this is a long road and we must do this work hand in hand with the community to achieve our goals.”

The process is expected to until the end of the year and its results will be with the public, say organizers.


on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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