Emphasize marginalized communities in New West top cop search: advocate

The search for a new chief of the NWPD has begun

The search for New Westminster’s next top cop has begun in earnest, which may provide an opportunity to examine how the city’s police force works with marginalized communities.

Former chief const. Dave Jones left the department at the end of March after a three-decade career at the NWPD, leaving Deputy Chief Dave Jansen to take on the role of acting chief on April 1. Jansen told the Record this month he would be seeking the position, but he acknowledged the competition will likely be stiff.

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Mayor Jonathan Cote recently put out a call to community stakeholders, including the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society, for input on qualities the New Westminster Police Department should seek in the next chief constable.

Cote told the Record the New West police board recognizes the top cop role as “one of the most important positions we have in the city,” and as such wants to hear from interested groups on what characteristics they would like to see fill that role.

“We’re really at the beginning of the process, and I think the police board actually didn’t want to pre-judge any of that,” Cote said, adding that the police board has sought input not only from community groups, but also from NWPD membership and city council.

Asked about how policing impacts the overdose crisis, Cote said the police board will “no doubt” want to seek out a candidate who “is going to be engaged in the modern world of policing and really take a progressive and proactive approach to policing in our community.”

Interviews with candidates, which will be conducted by the whole police board, are expected to begin in “the early parts of 2020,” Cote said, with a potential hire by March.

Betina Wheeler, co-ordinator with the New Westminster Homelessness Coalition Society, said the next chief needs to recognize the multitude of causes of crime in the community.

“Much of the reasons behind it is broader than just the crimes themselves,” Wheeler said. “I’m talking about all the poverty issues in the community, homelessness issues. We’ve got a growing population of 55-plus that all of a sudden, they’re losing jobs, they’re losing longtime spouses, they’re [facing] a lot of health issues.”

Wheeler said she also wants to see a top cop that will actively seek out diverse voices. She pointed to a September Record article in which two attendees of an engagement session around the upcoming strategic plan said the event wasn’t accessible for marginalized communities.

Amina Yasin told the Record at the time the event framed homelessness as a policing issue.

“If that’s a policing issue, do you really think that they feel welcome? … I wouldn’t think so. And is it really for policing to encroach into work like social work? Police officers are not social workers,” Yasin said.

Wheeler said she was also interested in seeing a chief that would emphasize reconciliation in policing, pointing to the First Nations court in the local courthouse.

“I think somebody really needs to have an understanding of the importance of that process and the importance of having it as an option and being present and involved in it,” Wheeler said.

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