WRPS chief, community groups address bias and inequality in police force at regional council meeting
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Regional Council heard from police Chief Bryan Larkin and several community groups about racism and policing in the community at a special council meeting on Wednesday evening.
Larkin addressed council to lay out his plan to combat bias and inequality within the the police service and the community as a whole. He said it's imperative that police get their own house in order before engaging with the community.
Larkin laid out a plan to create a team focused on diversity and inclusion to identify gaps in training. He also said the force needs to remove bias from the hiring process and career advancement.
According to Larkin, all senior leadership is going through implicit bias training and the service will perform annual audits on bias in policing.
"We have an opportunity for change here, we have an opportunity to reshape the service we deliver," Larkin said. "Being people-focused and people-driven provides us that opportunity. Our commitment as a police service is to be people-focused and people-driven, there are opportunities for change."
Two delegations from the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region also spoke to council, saying the actions taking by the police service fall short and won't help protect lives.
The ACB Network of Waterloo Region said the only way to accomplish the change they're looking for is to defund the police service and put that money into social services.
One of the speakers said they believe the region is only innovative when it's convenient.
"We have seen the region innovate leading the way in public smoking bylaws in the early 2000s and in the development in the blue box program, we know the region is capable of innovated change," said Tim Hunter, who presented to council on behalf of Fiqir Worku with the ACB Network of Waterloo Region. "But, right now, we are seeing the region be more amenable to some community causes than others."
Larkin said a global pandemic and growing social unrest has shown it's the right time for change.
Both police and the ACB Network of Waterloo Region agree that there needs to be change within the force, but remain far apart on what that change should look like.