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Winnipeg advocates renew call for police reform after death of Tyre Nichols

Winnipeg supporters are renewing their calls for police reform after the January 7 death of 29-year-old Tire Nichols, a black man, who was beaten by police in a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols died three days after the confrontation.

The officers, all black, were fired and charged with second-degree murder and other crimes. The Memphis Police Department said other officers who showed up at the scene were being investigated.

“To know it happened again at the hands of the police and black cops is beyond words. I don’t even know where to begin,” said Blandine Tona, founding member of the Winnipeg-based organization Parents Against Racism

“How can we trust this institution again,” she said.

Tona said the US or Canada hadn’t done enough to prevent police harm, citing a recent incident in which Manitoba’s Independent Investigative Unit said it would not investigate a police dog biting a child during a school visit .

She is calling for action by both governments to take “significant action” to reduce police violence.

“Here we have yet another case where people have forgotten the role of protecting the population, and [instead] harm someone in this way [denies] the basic human rights of the person,” Tona said.

“We’re done with the sentencing. We want action. We want these young people to live. No one is having children to watch them die in these horrible circumstances,” she said.

A woman with braided hair and glasses stares seriously at the camera.
Blandine Tona is a founding member of Parents Against Racism, a coalition campaigning against racism in the school system. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Alphonse Lawson, president of the French immigrant community Amicale de la Francophonie Multiculturelle du Manitoba, calls for a review of police culture, procedures and training.

Lawson said he thought changes would take place after the death of George Floyd in 2020 but now doubts himself, saying “Things haven’t changed that much.”

He said while he couldn’t ignore the fact that the officers charged were black, the culture needed to change for all officers.

“It will not be a question of white or black, but any time there is a threat to life in the hands of the police, the appropriate action will be taken [need to] be taken to protect the citizen, the community and life,” Lawson said.

A man looks solemnly at the camera.  He wears a black suit and a red tie.
Alphonse Lawson, who is with Amicale de la Francophonie Multiculturelle du Manitoba, calls for a review of police culture, procedures and training. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Danny Smyth, president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs and Winnipeg Police Chief, said in a statement that the CACP condemns the excessive and inappropriate use of force and reiterates a commitment to working with communities to ensure trust and confidence.

“As police leaders, we recognize that the actions of these officers will also erode trust in the police force in the United States and Canada and will tarnish the reputation of a majority of officers who have an unwavering commitment to public safety.”

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