'We need better accountability': Delegate addresses systemic racism in presentation to Police Services Board
KITCHENER -- A local resident raised concerns to the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board meeting about system racism in policing.
Judah Oudshoorn, who identified himself as a concerned citizen with a background in the criminal justice system, shared a presentation with the board on Wednesday morning.
He said he's worked closely with Black and Indigenous community members, and presented data on systemic racism in incarceration in Canada.
"We need better accountability from this oversight training," Oudshoorn said during his presentation.
Oudshoorn spoke about the significant differences between the white and Black experience in incarceration.
"This is about people's lives," he said.
In his presentation, Oudshoorn cited data showing that one in 71 young white men between 18 and 34 will be incarcerated in Ontario in their lifetime. He compared that to one in 15 for Black men in that same age group.
"We need to think more clearly as a community about how we're going to create safety and justice for all of our members," Oudshoorn said.
Oudshoorn also called on the region to reallocate police funding to other areas. He suggested moving funding for mental health and addictions out of the police budget and reallocating that money to other programming.
"Your easiest way to start addressing this issue is to start funnelling funds elsewhere into things where people are not being disproportionately targeted into things that we know that work," he said.
Regional Chair Karen Redman said many social services are funded by other levels of government, so looking strictly at the regional budget doesn't show how much money is allocated for those services.
"The Regional Municipality Waterloo, as well as the Waterloo Regional Police Service have all officially acknowledged that we do see that systemic racism does exist and that we will be part of the solution and part of the change," Redman said. "But, these are very complex issues."
Redman also said there's been a lot of civic engagement in policing in recent months, more than she's ever seen in her political career.
Police Chief Bryan Larkin said police across the province are working on a plan to triage calls at communication centres for non-police responses to various calls, including mental health. He added police recognize the need for equity and support in mental health calls and hopes to get support from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Services.
"I do want to publicly state that our members never want to be the last line or first line of mental health response, but the reality is that at four, five in the morning, often we're the only service that is operating."
Larkin also highlighted that police have helped save 51 people from drug overdoses in the past 12 months.
Wednesday's board meeting heard an update on their race-based data collection strategy. The service put out a call for academic partnership proposals last month, which closes on Friday. Once the partnership is in place, they hope to start working together in the fall.