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Parents wary of allowing cops unrestricted access to schools

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Where did the idea of installing a full-time police liaison officer in Whistler’s schools come from? Was it the parents who asked for it, or was it the students or the school staff?

That is what some parents at the recent Whistler secondary school Parent Advisory Council meeting wanted to know from local RCMP Staff Sgt. Hilton Haider.

"I asked for it," said Haider.

The staff sergeant, who replaced Frank Shedden in May last year, told a handful of parents attending the PAC meeting that the idea was initiated by the police.

Haider was at the high school PAC meeting April 23 to solicit parental support for a full-time school liaison officer. Already he has taken his proposal to the municipality, the elementary school PAC and to the Howe Sound school board.

The school district supports the concept but will not provide funding for it. The Resort Municipality of Whistler has, however, set aside funding for a third of the cost of a full-time school liaison position. Those funds, said Haider, have been frozen. "They are there and available for me to use." All that is needed is a letter from Whistler’s mayor to Canada’s Attorney General to say Whistler needs another policeman, one dedicated to the schools.

But, said Haider, that won’t happen unless there is a groundswell of grassroots support for the concept. The request for a policeman in local schools has to come from the community and that is why Haider is doing the rounds and making his case for the position.

The staff sergeant also believes the balance of the $72,000 in funding required for the position can be made available to the Whistler RCMP if parents make a strong case for it.

He said his vision is to split the full-time school liaison task between two officers. One officer would be assigned to Myrtle Philip, the other to Whistler secondary. The officers would spend 50 per cent of their work time at their respective schools from September through June. The other half of the work week would be devoted to community police work. This plan does not account for the new Spring Creek school.

During the summer holidays, the officers would be deployed elsewhere in the community.

Haider is working towards a 13-year plan that would see kindergarten kids through to Grade 12 students connected with RCMP school liaison officers. He said it would probably take 13 years to see if the program was producing positive results.

He said the goal of the school cops would be to prevent crime and enhance community safety through education; promote the police as an accessible community resource; eliminate barriers between children, parents and police; investigate offences and enforce laws and promote policing as a career.

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