Lack of classroom cops sparking serious concern in Victoria, Esquimalt
Teachers are speaking out after politics and police budgets pulled officers from study halls in Victoria and Esquimalt.
The Greater Victoria Teachers' Association has penned a letter outlining an increase in police calls to classrooms, specifically elementary schools, after the demise of a well-established police resource officer program.
"It’s about establishing relationships and viewing police as positive," teachers' association president, Jason Gammon told CTV Vancouver Island. "This is just another example of cuts to public education and when we see those cuts , no matter where they come from, it’s going to negatively affect students."
In April, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak announced that all three of Victoria and Esquimalt’s resource officers, who provide a number of hands-on duties at schools in the two municipalities, would be shuffled to more frontline positions.
The abrupt move came as Manak said local police had seen an increase in call volumes and officer injuries.
The chief also noted that a 2018 budget request to create six new officer positions was blocked when Esquimalt council voted against funding the new positions.
Esquimalt mayor Barb Desjardins says she is disturbed by the increase in police calls to schools, but says her municipality is not to blame.
Desjardins says the provincial government is currently working to resolve a contract dispute between Esquimalt and VicPD.
"We are working outside the framework agreement because we only have 23 people allocated," the mayor explained.
She says an agreement with Victoria police promised 24 officers for the other side of the Johnson Street bridge.
"That is not right. We are not following the agreement,” she said.
Desjardins welcomed the letter from the teachers' association and says she will present it to the police board when they meet next.
For now, there is a loud call from educators to reinstate resource officers so students can have consistent positive interactions with police, and not just see officers when things go wrong.