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Review of controversial SRO program goes ahead despite angry opposition

Last Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm EST

Police services board meeting, Thursday, August 24, 2017

Toronto’s police services board has approved a review of a controversial program that places police officers in certain schools in the city.

The board voted unanimously on Thursday to review the School Resource Officer program, with the assessment to be carried out by researchers at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

Toronto police first assigned officers to 30 high schools around the city in 2008 to improve safety and perceptions of the police. Thirty-seven Toronto officers are currently assigned to 75 schools in the city.

The meeting was interrupted several times by critics who claim minority students are intimidated and targeted by uniformed officers in their schools.

“Suspend the SRO program first, so that no other students have to be saddled with the burden of a discriminatory police force that’s in their schools,” said one of the deputants.

Others question if Ryerson University is the right choice for the review.

“It’s very curious to me that you’ve chosen Ryerson to conduct a review of this program when its the only university in Toronto that does not have a faculty of education.

Mayor John Tory says an independent review is the right thing to do.

“I do not believe it is a responsible way to make decisions to just decide we should close the program based on the say-so of people who come to the police services board and say that’s their view,” said Tory.

“If there are flaws in this program, which I acknowledge there probably are, then I trust that this study will identify those and we will be able to make the changes to the program as appropriate. But I support the program.”

The police chief says having officers in schools builds trust with students.

An interim report on the review’s findings is expected to be released in January.