Letter: New West police statement on racism ‘essentially meaningless’

Editor:

An open letter to New Westminster Police Department’s acting Chief Constable Dave Jensen and Mayor Jonathan Cote in response to their recent public statement:

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This statement from the NWPD, while well intentioned, is essentially meaningless. It is a very easy letter to write. What is less easy is taking concrete action to address the systemic racism in the NWPD experienced by Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of colour. That is what I would like others in New Westminster to join me to do - ask for firm commitment to concrete action, transparency, and accountability from the NWPD on this issue.  

I'd like answers to the following questions:

What are the current numbers (last three years) in New Westminster for the NWPD stopping, using force, arresting, and charging people, broken down in percentage by racial group? If you do not collect these numbers, I ask that you start to ASAP and share the results publicly on a regular basis.

There is evidence from other Canadian jurisdictions that Black and Indigenous people are much more likely to be stopped and harmed by Police, such as in Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax. Black people in Torontoare more than 20 times more likely than a white person to be shot and killed by Police. We need to know what is happening in our community with regards to these racist practices. 

What are the current percentages in the NWPD leadership (management and up) of representation of each of the following groups: Black people, Indigenous people, other people of colour, LGBTQIA2S+ people, disabled people, and women? Again, if you do not have this information I ask that you start to collect it ASAP and share the results publicly on a regular basis. We need the leadership of the NWPD to be diverse and reflective of the community it serves so that diverse voices are heard in the push for change.  

How many complaints from community members in New Westminster have been made with regards to the NWPD in the last three years related to racial profiling or excessive use of force towards Black people, Indigenous people, other people of colour or other equity seeking groups? How have these complaints been handled and what has the outcome been? We need to see that NWPD is accountable and takes action quickly and decisively to ensure the message is sent loud and clear that racism is not tolerated within its ranks. 

What specific actions have been taken by the NWPD to address the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) report? Response and action by local police forces across the countryin response to the report have been uneven and inconsistent. What are you doing in New Westminster?

Has the NWPD considered replacing armed police officers with unarmed crisis intervention workers trained to de-escalate conflict and connect people with the support they need? Experts say that there are many situations where police get involved which are mental health crises better handled by mental health experts. 

How will you ensure your new partnership with the Nextdoor app is not weaponized by white community membersto increase and worsen the over policing already experienced by Black people, Indigenous people, other people of colour, and other equity seeking groups in our city?

What are the specific actions being taken to address system racism in the NWPD? What impact do you anticipate these actions will have? What can we expect to see change and within what time frame? 

I would like to invite everyone in New Westminster to join me in asking these questions, loudly and repeatedly, until we see answers and action. Allies - particularly white allies - this is our opportunity to do something concrete to make a difference. Please join me. Write an email, send a tweet, go to public consultations, and talk to your neighbours about why this is important. People's lives are at stake. Please join me.

Kathleen Oliphant, New Westminster

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