Peel Regional Police (PRP) has announced the pause of its School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
The intention of this pause is to create meaningful dialogue with diverse stakeholders as well as to consult with community members about the programming.
“Peel Regional Police established the SRO program more than 20 years ago to foster relationships with students, administrators and staff, and to address complaints occurring on school board property,” says Nishan Duraiappah, Chief of Peel Regional Police.
“The mandate was given by the community then, and it remained the same over time. The needs of the community and school environments have changed and advanced to a level where the service delivery requires a vital review of the program and a complete overhaul of the system that oversees the SRO program.”
This summer, Peel Police will begin its comprehensive consultation process and expects to report on the process in winter 2020.
“We recognize that the consultative process needs the allocation of the requisite time and resources to ensure an equitable and trustworthy method,” said Chief Duraiappah.
“This will take thoughtful planning with as many stakeholders and partners as possible, including but not limited to, Black Community Action Network of Peel (BCAN), MOYO Community Health Services, school board staff, students, families, academics and advocates to collectively determine the next steps for PRP.”
The Peel District School Board (PDSB) is in support of PRP’s decision to pause the SRO program and consulting with the community.
“We have been assured that Peel Regional Police will engage in a consultation process with stakeholders, including Peel District School Board staff and the diverse communities we serve, in particular members of the Black, African and Caribbean communities,” said PDSB Interim Director of Education, Jaspal Gill.
“We have heard from members of our school communities, in particular those who identify as Black and Indigenous, that they do not feel safe when SRO’s and other police officers are present in Peel schools. PRP’s action to pause the SRO program is necessary.”
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) Director of Education, Marianne Mazzorato, stated that the board fully supports a review of the SRO program.
“We have been assured that authentic stakeholder consultation will be a key component of this review and we are pleased that all voices will have the opportunity to provide feedback,” said Mazzorato.
According to Marc Andrews, Deputy Chief of Community Policing Operations, he believes community partnerships are essential to identify needs and develop ideas to support the community and strengthen relationships to promote overall well-being.
“As we move forward in establishing the Community Safety and Well-Being Model in the region, we will continue to keep the public apprised of our progress through regular communications. Peel Police acknowledges the need for systemic change to support our essential mandate of keeping our communities safe,” said Andrews.
According to PDSB Supervisor Bruce Rodrigues, once a model is established for youth engagement by PRP, the board will consult with families and communities to determine which steps to take going forward.
“Once a model for youth engagement is established by Peel Police, the board will consult with students, staff, families and the diverse communities we serve, in particular Black, African and Caribbean communities, to determine next steps,” said Rodrigues.
“If we determine that the new model does not meet the needs of the students and families we serve, we will not move ahead. We are committed to listening to and working alongside the communities we serve to eliminate anti-Black racism and discriminatory practices in Peel schools and worksites.”
Mazzorato concluded by stating her hopes for the program.
“Our hope is that the program can truly support our goal to provide safe, caring and inclusive schools that uphold the dignity and respect of all students and staff,” she said.
As the process progresses, information about the consultation process will be shared by Peel Regional Police.