The Toronto Police Services board has decided to postpone a decision on the future of the School Resource Officer program until a review is completed later this year.
With several in the crowd present chanting “shame”, a motion put forth by Mayor John Tory and seconded by Coun. Shelly Carroll will see a steering committee established and present an interim report to the board by August. At that time, the committee would be expanded to include the input of youth, educators, school boards, parents, school administrators, youth advocacy organizations and other community groups.
A final decision on the SRO program would then be made by the end of December.
The highly contentious School Resource Officer program is an initiative which involves 36 uniformed police officers working in 75 Toronto high schools. It has been met with harsh criticism from activists in Toronto’s black community and some educators who say it leaves vulnerable students feeling targeted.
“We have had instances of people reporting to us how police are interacting with students in a way where they feel unsafe and scared coming to school,” said Sandy Hudson of Black Lives Matter.
Counc. Giorgio Mammoliti says he’s not convinced that the people who brought this issue to the table are acting in good faith.
“They don’t have the pulse of the community at all,” he said. “I would categorize them as bad as some of the gangs that are out there already.”
Whether the board decides to keep the program or get rid of it, those most impacted will be students. A number of them showed up in support of the program, saying it has had a positive impact in their lives.
“Today we came to send a message that, our experiences in high school, the police have had a positive impact in our lives and have helped us see that there is so much more than the stereotypes that we’ve been introduced to due to the areas that we come from,” said Grade 11 student Jason Finn.
“We’ve had an officer that was at our school last year – he’s not with us anymore – but I still call him on weekends or after school when I do need his help and he’s always there for me,” added fellow Grade 11 student Jordan Jackson. “That’s why I’m here right now because I feel like he’s always been there for me so it’s time I return the favour.”
The SRO program was implemented following the 2008 shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners at a school in North York.
According to Toronto Police, from 2015-2017 there were six complaints against SRO’s. Two were informally resolved, two others were withdrawn, one was unfounded and in another, an officer was disciplined.