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Letters Dec. 1: Liaison officers an asset to schools; stratas need to embrace change

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Victoria police officers cross the street near South Park Elementary School. Letter-writers says school liaison officers offer valuable benefits to both schools and their students. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

School officer honoured in a student assembly

I’ve been following the school liaison officer stories with interest, since I held this assignment with the Victoria Police Department for three years in the 1980s. Like Chief Del Manak, I regard this work as some of the most rewarding in my 30-year career.

My job was to provide a police resource for students and staff at Victoria’s secondary schools — Vic High, Central, S.J. Willis and Warehouse Alternative. All these schools were culturally and ethnically diverse.

I was a member of inter-agency teams set up to assist youth at risk. I managed the City Organization Supporting Youth (COSY), which provided service opportunities for kids.

I took kids on bottle drives in the BATmobile — the breath-test van. I coached the Central Boys basketball team, and taught a Canada’s System of Justice class — in my uniform.

I supervised, with parents and teachers, at school dances — and took a few turns on the floor myself. I took my lumps from kids on the outdoor basketball court at Warehouse — in my uniform.

Most people have no contact at all with police officers. This work was a bridge. There was no enforcement.

I was inspired by the school cops of my youth — notably Constable (later Deputy Chief) Bill Chisholm of the Saanich PD. And I know I inspired kids too. Some told me later in life that they had chosen to study law, or enter the police, because of my early influence.

When VicPD had a budget crunch in 1985, the chief decided to axe the school liaison position — sound familiar? On March 18, I showed up at Central school for my class, and was ushered into the gym, where all 400-plus students were assembled. They had declared it Constable Worth Day. They had prepared a petition to save my job and were taking it down to City Hall. It didn’t work, but I was overwhelmed by the support, and have never forgotten it.

Now, I know it’s not 1985 anymore. But the human rights commissioner’s recommendation to kill the program everywhere does not jibe with my experience, and clearly not with the Sooke School District’s, Saanich PD’s, who continue their program, or VicPD, who just need the funding to support it.

Kevin Worth
Victoria

Speaking with experience, liaison officers are a help

Re: “Call for halt to school-liaison officers questioned,” Nov. 29.

The statement that “human rights commissioner Kasari Govender says concerns about the presence of police officers in schools have been raised by marginalized students, their families and their communities” has me concerned.

Police liaison officers had been in our schools for many years. They are well-trained individuals who have a keen desire to connect with young people — to establish an ongoing rapport with them and to provide a very positive image of who police officers are and the kind of help they are able to provide.

Many of the students they are connected with are those who Govender outlines as being “concerned” for having police liaison officers in the schools.

I was a principal at an inner-city school where a large part of the student population would fit into Govender’s description of “marginalized.” Those liaison officers (one of whom is now a high-ranking VPD officer) were invaluable.

Their involvement with students, parents and staff was outstanding. Students felt comfortable interacting with them and enjoyed the support they received. I never had an indication from a parent of being concerned with their presence.

In fact, it was the exact opposite.

Throughout my career I taught in high school, the junior (at that time) high school and elementary school. I saw the value of liaison officers and would most certainly support those who would want them reinstated.

Dave Hockley, retired principal
Victoria

More police officers needed in schools

The B.C. human rights commissioner calling for an end to police officer programs in B.C. is yet another virtue-signalling appointed public servant who appears unaware of the increasing incidents of violence within schools, not just in B.C. but throughout the western world.

The commissioner is quoting unnamed American studies that “have shown the officers can contribute to a sense of criminalization and surveillance in schools” and these concerns “have been raised by marginalized students, their families, and their communities.” This is not the United States and she does not provide any link to the Canadian experience, but assumes the same issues and concerns are present in B.C. schools.

Would the commissioner prefer that these marginalized students, their families, and their communities rather than addressing “their sense of criminalization and surveillance” deal instead with the reality of assaulted, injured, traumatized, and potentially deceased school-aged victims of school violence?

Does she not understand how the presence of police officers provide not only a sense of security but also function as role models for young boys and girls? Is the commissioner not aware of the multitude of studies that show that young males without a male presence in the home or in their lives are most at risk for committing acts of violence toward fellow students and teachers?

If we all want to feel safer, let’s employ more police officers and fewer human-rights commissioners — or at least send them back to school before they take up their position in B.C.

Michael Butler
Victoria

Officers in our schools not the same as in the U.S.

Whyever would any B.C. school board base a decision on the existence of school liaison officers on American studies, as a B.C. human rights commissioner has said they should?

The differences in our respective cultures, particularly with respect to guns and violence and the way law enforcement is structured, are glaringly obvious.

Any program in any school that bridges the gaps for students in their perception of the world around them is most welcome.

Communication is the foundation of civilized society and anything that promotes clear, respectful understanding between people of any age, culture, or societal construct should be a core part of all education experiences.

We must not give way to fear of what might be, and instead keep lines of communication open to illuminate the reasons why marginalized students are concerned about a kind, supportive police presence in schools, and to ensure the rights and needs of all students are respected.

Cancelling yet another vital aspect of our Canadian culture — communication, compassion, prevention — would be a step back and in no way represents the road of reconciliation we all need to travel with respect to all cultures of our Canadian mosaic, in order to continue creating our culture of acceptance and inclusivity.

I urge all school boards to respectfully decline to accede to this commissioner’s demands.

Linda Baker
Victoria

Condofusion? Learn to embrace change

I have owned two condos and been a member of two strata councils in the past. Living now in a James Bay highrise, my days will end as a renter, methinks.

It comes as no surprise that the plan to eliminate rental restrictions has strata councils waving their arms in the air and looking out for chunks of the falling sky.

To some, their home is a big investment and they want to squeeze every nickel they can at the time of resale. To others, this is about the sanctity of the home and the belief that renters are akin to soccer hooligans.

Without any shame, I will say that I would be an ideal renter living next to you. Quiet and thoughtful, always paying my bills and maintaining appearances.

I will also say that one of my strata experiences involved living beside a woman who decided to breed sheepdogs in her condo. What a nightmare that was.

All transitions are difficult. Every strata owner hearing Mr. Eby’s recent announcement envisions a crazy dog breeder renting next door as opposed to a kindly, senior man who keeps to himself.

It would seem that every decision these days is a binary one. In this case it is “renters, good or bad?” Upon hearing of any proposed change, the first words out of mouths these days are “Yes, but… .” When did we all become Hatfields or McCoys?

The new NIMBY is now NIMCA, as in “not in my common area.”

Calls for “shutting Victoria” are nonsensical when there are so many reasons for Canadians to want to live here. Ask many in your social circles, and Victoria is often not their place of origin.

As a result, the condo-owning seniors that demand a $6 coffee and a monthly pedicure must realize that change needs to happen, and is going to happen.

Embrace it.

Mark R. Fetterly
Victoria

More arrivals will worsen housing crisis

Back in the 1950s, when I was growing up, almost everybody lived in a single family house, whether you were rich or poor. My neighbour supported a wife, eight children and a dog on his income as a letter carrier. He also owned a house and car.

Fast forward to 2022. My niece and her husband are professionals with advanced degrees. They live with their two young daughters in a one-bedroom Vancouver condo.

They will eventually be able to buy a bigger condo, but the only way they will be able to buy a single-family home is if they win the lottery.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to bring thousands of refugees to Canada. This is a noble idea, but where are these folks going to live? At his house? Or in tents on the sidewalk? Let’s just hope some of them are doctors and nurses.

Cheera J. Crow
Brentwood Bay

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