Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2024 

An abridged version of this statement was presented by Chief Del Manak to the SD61 Board of Trustees on February 26, 2024. 

Victoria, B.C. – Since the decision to remove School Police Liaison Officers (SPLOs) in May 2023, the safety and wellbeing of students has become an area of significant concern in SD61 schools. 

Gang activity in Greater Victoria has increased, and a primary target of their activity is our youth. We currently have seven street gangs active in the Greater Victoria area and gang recruitment through our schools is on the rise.   

Gangs have successfully recruited members from SD61 high schools and middle schools to traffic drugs and vape products, which are illegal for youth to possess.   

Most schools in the Greater Victoria area have students involved in these gang-initiated trafficking schemes, and just last month we made our first arrest of a gang-affiliated member who was actively recruiting youth in parking lots across from a number of schools, during the school day. This is just one person of many who have been observed, and we continue to work on targeting these activities.  

Gangs are extorting parents whose kids have been actively recruited for illegal activities, such as trafficking products. They are using violence and threats of violence, and in some cases, parents have relocated their families to try to escape these gangs.  

One of our CRD police agencies has reports of drugs being sold to students as young as 11 years old. 

Unfortunately, most kids are naïve to gang recruiting tactics and by the time they realize they are working for a gang they have incurred a debt and are on the way to becoming entrenched.  

The primary role of a School Police Liaison Officer is education and crime prevention. Without SPLOs we are not able to get involved with vulnerable students early, to help prevent gang recruitment and keep students safe.  

Police in schools are a direct deterrent to gang involvement and other concerning, criminal or violent activity that targets and impacts vulnerable youth. 

It is important to note that the role that SPLOs played in schools has not been taken up by any other providers. They have not been replaced with social workers, counsellors or mental health workers, as promised, and I would argue that they cannot be replaced. The role of an SPLO is much different than any of these providers could take on and they are not police professionals or experts in crime prevention or criminal investigations.  

One important role that cannot be filled is disclosure of crime and exploitation. The SPLO relationship built trust in police officers among students so that when our Mobile Youth Services Team (MYST), an officer and family counsellor who support high-risk, exploited and vulnerable youth in our community, attended a school to collect information about a crime that had been committed against a youth, there was a quick transition of trust from the SPLO to our MYST officer. Now, the MYST officer must build trust over time, time that they simply don’t have.  Every delayed intervention puts our youth at further risk.  

Recently, local police departments have been offering information sessions on gang recruitment and activity in and around our schools to parents. These information sessions have been filled to capacity and so far, more than 600 parents have attended. It’s clear that there is an appetite for more information on how to keep our youth safe, and School Police Liaison Officers play a key role in maintaining student safety through education. 

Parents who are concerned about gang activity are not the only ones who want to see officers back in schools.  

I have been copied on dozens of letters from parents, PACs and leaders from our BIPOC and Indigenous communities, representatives of hundreds of people from the very communities the Board cited as reasons for removing officers from schools, and they are expressing concern over the cancellation of this program. As far as I know, their concerns have gone unacknowledged and unanswered.  

What some might not be aware of, is that the restriction of police visiting schools has not been limited to School Police Liaison Officers, but also extends to officers making presentations in schools or otherwise visiting for any reason other than law enforcement or safety planning with lockdown drills. I think it’s a terrible shame that our officers have been made to feel so unwelcome, even in the younger grades. 

Parents, police and educators working together is how we are going to keep our kids safe. SPLOs are critical to the deterrence and prevention of crime, violent activity, and gang recruitment in schools.  

I am respectfully asking that student safety be made a top priority in our schools.   

I am requesting that the SD61 Board re-instate the SPLO program immediately and create a small sub-committee that includes students, PAC reps, teachers, administrators and police officers to discuss what barriers exist for some students to have police in schools, and how we can reduce trauma for those students who don’t feel comfortable with officers in schools. I am ready to commit officers to this program immediately.  

Building relationships is our best way forward, so let’s sit down and address these concerns head-on with an eye to building trust and mutual understanding. 


To hear more about what our Mobile Youth Services Team (MYST) is hearing and experiencing in schools, listen to their Victoria City Police Union True Blue podcast episode: