The Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents federal Correctional employees, including Parole Officers, is calling on the Correctional Service of Canada to immediately reinstate the Community Correctional Liaison Officer program, or police liaison program.
This call follows incidents of increased gang violence this past spring which have seen a provincial Correctional Officer killed in British Columbia, and the homicide of a federal offender on parole a week ago who was killed outside of a Community Residential Facility (halfway house) in Calgary where he was residing.
“When police liaisons were deployed by the Correctional Services of Canada between 2007 and 2014, they were highly involved in the supervision, monitoring and apprehension of federal offenders on parole released into the community,” said David Neufeld, National Vice-President of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees and a former federal Parole Officer.
In 2007, the police liaison program was created to enhance the working relationships between CSC and police forces across Canada. They worked alongside Parole Officers throughout the country.
There were approximately 17 in total who were deployed in key urban centres throughout the country, including B.C., the Prairies, the GTA, Quebec as well as the Atlantic provinces.
Despite their limited number, they were available to Parole Officers and other federal Correctional staff in the community. Beyond the recent escalation of gang violence, there have been several homicides outside of federal Correctional facilities, creating vulnerability for offenders re-integrating back into the community and Correctional employees.
In addition to information sharing, police liaisons were also key when an offender was suspended on parole and needed to be re- apprehended into federal custody, often preventing the offender from going Unlawfully at Large.
“It gave federal Parole Officers and the policing community a focused way to share crucial information, and to get police back up, that is absolutely CRITICAL when you are dealing with highly criminalized offenders, particularly those who are gang affiliated,” Neufeld added.
The homicide of a federal offender outside of a halfway house IN RECENT WEEKS has raised the alarm bells among Canada’s approximately 1400 federal parole officers, many of whom work in the community and are required to conduct site visits at the homes and workplaces of federal offenders on conditional release. These site visits are part of their legislated responsibility to monitor the activity and movement of federal offenders.
Federal Parole Officers are public service employees who work in both federal penitentiaries and communities across the country. Community Parole officers conduct Community supervision activities unarmed, and without any formal access to police resources.
“With recent escalating rates of gang affiliation and violence in the community, the risk to federal parolees themselves who may be involved in gangs, and those who supervise them, must be fully acknowledged,” added the Union’s National President Stan Stapleton.
The police liaison program was part of an integrated Police and Parole Initiative within the Correctional Service between 2007 and 2014.It retained through secondments approximately 15 – to 17 seasoned police officers from the RCMP and other local policing agencies in key urban centres across the country at a cost of just over 2 million dollars per year.
The program was cut in 2014 as part of the former Harper government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, amid protest from the Union of Safety and Justice Employees. The police liaisons were not represented by the union but were regarded as an invaluable resource for those doing the work on the front lines. The Union of Safety and Justice Employees has continued to call for the program’s reinstatement every year since, including in its pre-budget submission in August 2020.
The Correctional Service of Canada has asserted that they have replaced police liaisons with a limited number of specialized intelligence officers in federal prisons. USJE adamantly disagrees that SIOs can play the same role, particularly in the community where there are hundreds if not THOUSANDS – federal offenders on parole.
“SIOs, while important in gathering information in the federal correctional environment, simply cannot replace the role of police liaisons who have dynamic relationship within their own policing networks and can mobilize information and support quickly. For Corrections Canada to suggest they are the same really betrays a lack of understanding about the realities of supervising offenders in communities across the country,” Stapleton added.
“Quite simply, this is about the safety of federal Parole Officers and their capacity to protect themselves, the public and offenders themselves who may be at significant risk of perpetuating another crime or becoming the victim of one. Corrections Canada needs to reinstate the police liaison program immediately,” Stapleton emphasized. “This problem isn’t going away. It will not solve itself.”