“I’m Just a Friend Now”: Community Policing in Toronto Schools

  • Gita Rao MadanEmail author


In 2008, fully armed and uniformed police officers (called School Resource Officers, or SROs) were deployed to 30 public high schools in Toronto to patrol the hallways on a full-time basis. Situated from within the ongoing community-based struggle to remove the permanent presence of police from schools, Madan argues that the race-absent discourse of “relationship building” used by policing and educational institutions to legitimize the program obscures the more insidious functions of SRO policing. These include: the criminalization of racialized, particularly Black, Indigenous, and undocumented students, and the entrenchment of the school-to-prison pipeline; the naturalization of police presence in the school spaces of racialized youth; and the surveillance and disciplinary enforcement activities of SROs. As such, this chapter critically interrogates how the relationship-building approach works to humanize individual officers while decontextualizing SROs from the ongoing structural violence that racialized communities experience at the hands of the police.


  1. Advancement Project. (2013). Police in Schools Are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shooting.
  2. Aulakh, R., & Dobbs, K. (2009, October 24). Officer Attacked at High School Hailed as Hero. The Toronto Star.
  3. Benitah, S. (2009, October 24). Police School Program: Hit-and-Miss with Teens. CTV Toronto News.
  4. Blatchford, C. (2009, September 9). Cops in Schools: Sometimes Needed, If Not Always Trusted. The Globe and Mail.
  5. Brillinger, C. (2013). Review of City Service Levels Supporting Toronto’s at Risk Youth. City of Toronto.
  6. Brown, L., & Rushowy, K. (2014, September 23). School Stabbing Revives Trauma of Jordan Manners Shooting. The Toronto Star.
  7. Campbell, J. (2009, April 16). Numerous Studies Show Cops in Schools Make Matters Worse. Basics News.
  8. CBC. (2009, June 29). 50 Toronto High Schools to Have Police Presence. CBC News.
  9. Chapman-Nyaho, S., James, C. E., & Kwan-Lafond, D. (2012). “We Expect Much of You”: Enlisting Youth in the Policing of Marginalized Communities. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 43–44(3–1), 81–98.Google Scholar
  10. Chu, N. (2014, June 25). Cooking with Cops Brings Police Officer and Students Together in the Kitchen. Bloor West Villager.
  11. CTV Toronto. (2016, May 4). Mock Police Academy for Students [video file].
  12. Doucette, C. (2014, September 24). Metal Detectors ‘Not the Answer’ to School Safety Concerns: Donna Quan. Toronto Sun.
  13. Ferreira Da Silva, D. (2010). Towards a Critique of the Socio-Logos of Justice: The Analytics of Raciality and the Production of Universality. Social Identities, 7(3), 421–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fine, M., Freudenberg, N., Payne, Y., Perkins, T., Smith, K., & Wanzer, K. (2003). “Anything Can Happen with Police Around”: Urban Youth Evaluate Strategies of Surveillance in Public Places. Journal of Social Issues, 59(1), 141–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fine, M., & Ruglis, J. (2009). Circuits and Consequences of Dispossession: The Racialized Realignment of the Public Sphere for U.S. Youth. Transforming Anthropology, 17(1), 20–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Friesen, J., & Appleby, T. (2009). Teen’s Arrest in High School Hallway Sparks Debate About Police Program. The Globe and Mail.
  17. Gee, M. (2009, October 7). A Police Drama with a Happy Ending. The Globe and Mail.
  18. Gillis, W. (2017). Toronto Police Board to Consider Suspending School Resource Officer Program. The Toronto Star.
  19. Goldberg, D. (2009). The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Government of Ontario. (2005). O. Reg. 265/98: Disclosure of Personal Information.
  21. Hirschfield, P. (2008). Preparing for Prison? The Criminalization of School Discipline in the USA. Theoretical Criminology, 12(1), 79–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. James, C. (2012). Students at “Risk”: Stereotypes and the Schooling of Black Boys. Urban Education, 47(2), 464–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jennie. (2009, June 9). Letter to the TDSB Regarding Police in Schools. Educators for Peace and Justice.
  24. Justice Policy Institute. (2012). Measured Responses: Why Increasing Law Enforcement in Schools Is Not an Effective Public Safety Response to the Newtown Tragedy. Justice Policy Institute.
  25. Kauri, V. (2012, November 13). Trustees, Principals Fear Loss of Officer Program. The Globe and Mail.
  26. Keung, N. (2013, February 22). Toronto Declared ‘Sanctuary City’ to Non-Status Migrants. The Toronto Star.
  27. Lipman, P. (2011). Cracking Down: Chicago School Policy and the Regulation of Black and Latino Youth. In K. J. Saltman & D. A. Gabbard (Eds.), Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization of Schools (pp. 73–91). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Madan, G. R. (2016). Policing in Toronto Schools: Race-ing the Conversation (Masters thesis). OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto.Google Scholar
  29. MajorKraze. (2009, October 2). Student Arrested at Northern Secondary School for No Reason [video file].
  30. Menter, I. (1987). The Long Arm of Education: A Review of Recent Documents on Police/School Liaison. Critical Social Policy, 7(21), 68–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mills, S. (2012). “Coolest Cop in Canada” School Cop Candy @PCGraham9655 Bishop Marrocco Social Media Success & Safety [video file].
  32. Moffette, D., & Gardner, K. (2015). Often Asking, Always Telling: The Toronto Police Service and the Sanctuary City Policy. Toronto: No One Is Illegal.Google Scholar
  33. Noguera, P. A. (1995). Preventing and Producing Violence: A Critical Analysis of Responses to School Violence. Harvard Educational Review, 65(2), 189–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nolan, K. (2011). Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. No One Is Illegal. (2010, September 3). Toronto Schools a Little More Welcoming for Undocumented Students. No One Is Illegal.
  36. Ontario Human Rights Commission [OHRC]. (2003, July 8). The Ontario Safe Schools Act: School Discipline and Discrimination.
  37. Park, R. [zeebraCop]. (2015). Retrieved from
  38. Petteruti, A. (2011). Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. Justice Policy Institute.
  39. Public Safety Canada. (2013). School Resource Officer Program (Details).
  40. Rainford, L. (2014, October 20). Students and Seniors Bond Through Bishop Marrocco’s Intergenerational Program. Bloor West Villager.
  41. Rayon. (2009, April 16). ‘They Don’t Belong’: The Solution Is Not the Cops. Basics News.
  42. Rushowy, K. (2009, January 11). The Kids Are All Right, Says Cop. The Toronto Star.
  43. Saczkowski, T. (2015, August 31). Carding and Toronto Police Practices Called into Question. Rabble News.
  44. Toronto District School Board [TDSB]. (2007). Policy P.061 SCH: Students Without Legal Immigration Status.
  45. Toronto Police Accountability Coalition [TPAC]. (2009). Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, Bulletin #50.
  46. Toronto Police Service [TPS]. (2009). School Resource Officer Program: 2008/2009 Evaluation. Toronto Police Service.,2009-sro_evaluation_program.pdf.
  47. Toronto Police Service [TPS]. (2011, December). School Resource Officer Program: 2011 Follow-Up Evaluation. Toronto Police Service.,2009-sro_program_follow-up_evaluation.pdf.
  48. Toronto Police Service [TPS]. (2012). 2011 Service Performance Year End Report. Toronto Police Service.
  49. Toronto Police Service [TPS]. (2015). TAVIS. Toronto Police Service.
  50. Toronto Police Services Board [TPSB]. (2017, June 15). Toronto Police Services Board Livestream Thursday June 15th 1 pm [video file].
  51. Vivanco, P. A. (2009). ‘Safe’ Schools: Safe for Who?: Latinas, Thugs, and Other Deviant Bodies (Masters thesis). OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto.Google Scholar
  52. Winsa, P. (2013, September 27). TAVIS Police Unit in Eye of the Storm. The Toronto Star.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations