Ottawa police cancelling school resource officer program city-wide

The Ottawa Police Service says it's removing officers from schools going forward. File / Global News

The Ottawa Police Service is removing dedicated officers from schools across the city after the biggest school board in the nation’s capital opted out of the program earlier this month.

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly told reporters on Monday that the OPS will end the school resource officer program at all four boards covering the city.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board voted June 14 to end its participation in the program at a special meeting and formalized the decision later in the month.

Sloly said Monday that schools in the OCDSB represented roughly half the resources for the SRO program city-wide.

When Ottawa’s largest school board opted out, the force made the choice to cancel the program at the remaining three boards and reallocate those resources to other police operations.

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In the 2021 OPS budget, $3.69 million was spent on the SRO program .

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Sloly highlighted the expansion of the OPS’ neighbourhood resource teams in suburban and rural communities as one recipient of the freed-up funding, but also mentioned the sexual and partner assault units and the police mental health response as other revenue streams that could benefit.

“We still have unresolved demands on this police service. We now have the opportunity to redeploy some of those resources,” he said.

Elsewhere on in the OPS budget deliberations, a report heading to Ottawa’s finance and economic development committee in early July proposes a three-percent budget increase for the force in 2022 as part of the city-wide tax levy hike.

The Ottawa Police Services Board had passed a motion during last year’s budget season asking the finance and audit committee to explore ways to reduce or keep the 2022 budget at 2021 levels. The 2021 budget grew by $13.2 million year-over-year, mostly to cover off increases to staff salaries.

Delegations at the OPSB have told board members “loud and clear” that they did not want to see an increase in the police budget, OPSB Chair Diane Deans said Monday.

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But she conceded that a budget freeze might not be in the cards for 2022. Deans said she will propose hiring a group of consultants called StrategyCorp to help the board achieve the targets in the years to come.

“It may take more than one year to move in that direction but we have made a commitment, to the extent possible, that we will make our best efforts to reduce our budget ask,” she told reporters ahead of Monday’s OPSB meeting.

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