WINNIPEG — It appears police resource officers are staying put in Winnipeg schools.
City council approved a contract renewal on Wednesday for the School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
It comes after opposition from members of the community who said the program is a detriment to students in marginalized communities.
The vote for the program wasn’t close, as it ended in a 13 to three vote in favour of the contract.
The renewal will see 19 officers in schools across the city.
The school divisions will pay $3.4 million, the province will put in $1.7 million, and $3 million will come from the Winnipeg Police Service.
“I’ve seen first hand some of the School Resource Officers and the dialogue they have, the public service, you know the PSAs they provide in schools. I appreciate that,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.
Some delegates on hand at council championed the program.
“They have outstanding skills in my experience in deescalating situations,” said Brian O’Leary with the Seven Oaks School Division.
However, others are calling for the programs end over concerns about interactions between officers and students of colour, and they feel the money could be better spent on other school supports.
“I would like my children to go to school and to be greeted by community workers and public health nurses,” said Dorota Blumczynska with the Police Accountability Coalition.
The contract renewal was already delayed in July and three councillors unsuccessfully voted to pause this again and do a review of the program instead.
Coun. Vivian Santos, who failed a background check done by the Winnipeg Police Service for a Police Board appointment, was one of those councillors.
“The fact that the Winnipeg police can work with a sense of impunity, my respect for the police has been eroded,” said Santos.
Bowman cautioned the vote was timely.
“The implications of not supporting this would mean the SROs would almost certainly be pulled from schools,” said Bowman.
A city report said each of the six school divisions has a management committee that oversees the program and arranged annual evaluations.
A statement released by the Winnipeg Police Service, said it thanks all the citizens for their input regarding the program.
“In collaboration with school divisions, we will continue to listen to concerns and evaluate how to best deliver a program to Winnipeg schools that serves the needs of all students, families, and staff in the communities they serve,” the statement said.
The service added it believes officers play a “vital role” in the success of children and it is inviting the community to engage to make sure it happens.
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