Dear Regina Police Services, MBC Network, and the General Public
We are writing in response to the statements made by Elizabeth Popowich from Regina Police Services in response to the concerns raised during the Regina march for International Day Against Police Brutality. These statements appeared in the article March Against Police Brutality Held in Regina published on Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation webpage on March 16th 2015.
We are disappointed by the response and hoped that the RPS would be more interested in listening to the community’s concerns. [The statement we gave the police is pasted at the end of this letter.] In Popowich’s response, she said the police do not agree with our statements. We feel that she is dismissing our concerns before having a chance to look into them. By stating this, it seems to us that they are unwilling to listen to this community’s concerns.
The march and list of concerns was calling for accountability, and we never criticized the “entire organization” as Popowich stated. We are asking for for the police to listen and hear the concerns of the community. Popowich stated that we were “inappropriate” in raising and voicing our concerns. She stated that: “Such things are not the character of our organization and they’re not the character of policing in this country.” Yet, there is fear of the police in many communities, and it is clear from her statement that there is little interest in recognizing such fear or the reasons for such fear. We agree the system “works” in the eyes of some people, but it does not work for or in the interest of all people. We recognize that this is a segregated issue and members of some communities are more subject to these issues then others, but this does not change or erase the documented history of such misconduct. Looking at the history of policing in Canada, the police were the truancy officers of the Residential Schools and the enforcer of colonial policies, as well as in Saskatchewan, we had the undeniable practice of the Starlight Tours.
But when addressing the issue of “fear,” these are not just historical issues. One woman at the event told the story of her interaction with the police in her home. She recalled that two large police officers entered her house uninvited while she was alone with her children. The police officers scared both of her children and herself because they were aggressive with a mom home alone with her children. In this case, what about this story does Popowich disagree with? That the women was afraid? That her children were scared? That the police officers were large men in reference to the woman? Or that the police officers entered the house? Dismissing these fears and experiences are part of what those that participated in the march are concerned about.
We agree that the police are a “organization of human beings.” That is why in our statements we said we stand in solidarity with individuals in the police services that are trying to change the system from within. We have had police officers come forward to us privately regarding internal racism on the force. We stand with them to change the way things work, so we can live together in a community for and in peace. If there is to be a dialogue, the first step is to listen and hear the experiences people have.
Popowich stated that issues are “addressed very, very quickly by the systems and the oversight and the accountability that’s in place.” Yet many individuals who have filed complains wait for extensive periods of time without hearing back from the process. This is if people file a complaint. Too often, individuals are afraid to file complaints based on past experiences with police officers creating a culture of silence. Popowich referred to these issues as “errors or mistakes or concerns about conduct.” We are talking about abuse. We think it is disingenuous and demeaning to represent grievances in such a way. Examples of grievances that have been brought to our attention and stand unresolved are:
– being punched and kicked after being cuffed
– purposely smashing individuals heads against the police car
– sexual misconduct
– aboriginal individuals pulled over and searched for walking down the street
– racial slurs
Below is the statement the march gave to Regina Police Services on March 15th 2015.
We would like to thank you for giving us a chance to clarify our position, our concerns and express our disappointment.
Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism
For more information contact:
Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism
Community Concerns Regarding Police Practices in Regina Delivered on March 15, 2015 to Regina Police Services
As concerned residents of Regina, we are calling upon Regina Police Services to address the following issues:
1) Racial and youth profiling.
2) Need for ongoing education to better treat peoples with different abilities, metal illness, and/or FASD.
3) Need for legitimate and robust complaints process and public accountability.
4) Poor treatment of street workers and sexual harassment.
5) Escalation and excessive use of force and weaponry.
6) Development of successful and respectful relationships between RPS and the public.
7) Legitimate consequences for misconduct; reparations for past acts; full disclosure of events and outcomes.
8) Focus on mediation (of events) and peaceful interactions with all members of the public.