Paterson’s Perspective by Duck Paterson.

Paterson’s Perspective by Duck Paterson.

OPINION: School police liaison programs help keep kids and community safe

School liaison programs help build trust between youth and police, Duck Paterson writes

One of the great things about working on a farm — besides being outside in the fresh air — is that I get to do my own thing quite often. Feeding almost 100 cows, two peacocks and one horse takes a bit of time, and I get to do it by myself, with no other human interference.

Even the hay deliveries are okay, a bit more work, but it’s the farm truck that gets to me. It’s not really the truck (even if it is a Chevy) it’s just the radio. I honestly believe that the boss has glued the dial to the CKNW radio talk show. For the past six or so months all they’ve talked about is COVID and it’s gotten kinda monotonous, but last week they had one of the most outrageous subjects I’ve ever heard of — police liaisons in Vancouver public schools are being canned.

I could hardly believe it when I heard that the Vancouver School Board had voted to oust the Police School Liaison program. It looks like their decision has the potential to snowball.

In fact, New Westminster is considering cancelling the program there as well. What is the reasoning for this? Especially with all the problems involving shootings, stabbings, gangs, etc that exist on the mainland right now. This is not the time to be telling young people that the police are not to be trusted. I would think that especially the schools would want their students to be looking to the police for advice on gangs, drugs and all that.

When I went to school we were taught to respect the police. The police were there to look out for us and the community. They were not to be our friends but to be there when we needed them. I can’t remember if it was an actual “liaison program” we had in Port Alberni, but we did have the local RCMP come a couple of times a year to chat and explain about drugs, alcohol and that sort of stuff. We used to joke about cops and do dumb things. We also knew that if we were really stupid there were consequences, but we trusted the police.

What is happening in the U.S and to a lesser degree, so far, in Canada is not the police uniform or the badge. It’s individuals who are not good people. I believe there is an opportunity to heal some of the feelings that have caused this mistake. Some of the students interviewed said, “they feel harm with the presence of the police in the schools”. The school liaison program is a good way of helping to fix those harms. It can give the kids and police an opportunity to sit and chat and find out that they are all real people.

Yes, there are bad police officers. Ones who take advantage of their position, but that can be said for any job or position. There have been bad lawyers not to mention teachers as well as religious leaders, doctors and politicians. Systemic racism is, unfortunately, quite evident in all aspects of our society and police departments are not excluded.

Having a police liaison constable in the schools can go a long way in helping to cure this disease of society. Students from visible minorities, Indigenous students and adults can learn to feel more comfortable with a police person in their midst and I think that the reverse can also happen. Police can learn from the young people by hearing about their issues and work to establish an anti-racism environment in their detachment. Showing mutual respect will go a long way in healing a lot of wounds and restoring confidence.

In the old days, we were taught to respect the police. We were taught that if we needed help the police were the ones that would be there to help. Yes, quite a few bad apples have turned the images sour, but cutting out an opportunity for young people and the police to meet and talk is not the way to do it.

Change needs to happen. There is always room for improvement in everything. When recruits sign up to be a police officer more background and insight into the person needs to be done. We are never going to totally weed out bad people who do unspeakable things. We need to strengthen the criteria. What this knee-jerk decision, the Vancouver School Board has made, and possibly others are contemplating the same, is not showing respect for the people that are there to help us. It’s saying we don’t trust you, and we sure as hell don’t respect the work you do or the risks you take to protect our community.