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New Brunswick

‘There’s room to grow’: Police force focuses on anti-racism, bias | Spare News

The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force has stepped up its anti-racism and anti-diversity efforts in the face of growing newcomers to the area.

Police anti-racism efforts were commended in the Systemic Racism Commissioner’s report on systemic racism in New Brunswick, released in December 2022.

Insp. Anika Becker said the force has included a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in its strategic plan and will also develop an anti-racism strategy to encourage people from racist communities to join the police force.

Becker said she first applied to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2019, but wanted to continue to emphasize police efforts against racism following the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for the murder of Floyd after kneeling on his neck for several minutes in May 2020. Floyd’s death, recorded by a bystander, sparked months of protests against police brutality across the United States and around the world.

His death also prompted Becker to “view the force critically,” she said.

“Do we have systemic barriers, unconscious biases?” she said. “What does the death of George Floyd mean, not just for the police but for the Kennebecasis Regional Police Department?”

The region’s substantial population growth, driven largely by immigration, was also a driving force behind the force’s efforts.

“[Newcomers] are a big part of our community,” she said, “we are very committed and make sure our officers do the same so they can better understand the cultural differences.”

The police have also established their Community Justice, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which includes members of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force and community members including PRUDE Inc. (Pride of Race, Unity & Dignity through Education) and the Saint John Newcomers Center.

The group meets several times a year for consultation, said Becker.

Li Song, executive director of PRUDE, said her organization’s education coordinator has been “actively working” with Kennebecasis police, teaching about unconscious bias, stereotypes and more.

“It’s important to see the anti-racism and also add a message about building diversity,” Song said.

She added that her organization is “always there to challenge her,” particularly when it comes to diversifying the complement to the police force.

“There’s always room to grow,” she said, “but they do their best.”

Kennebecasis Police Chief Steve Gourdeau said Becker received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for her work with the force.

dr Manju Varma, who served as New Brunswick’s Systemic Racism Officer, highlighted the anti-racism efforts of the Kennebecasis Police as well as the Miramichi Police.

“Both chiefs and their squad actively worked to build trust with diverse ethnic communities and understood the need to educate themselves about systemic racism,” the report said.

However, the report continues: “Other conversations with the leadership revealed an alarming reliance on stereotypes, a lack of empathy for newcomers and a reluctance to accept the presence of systemic racism in the justice system.”

Varma also expressed concern about the lack of race-based data for road and traffic checks, calling the available data “blotchy and random”.

“This lack of follow-up demonstrates, at best, a lack of understanding of systemic racism; at worst, this omission demonstrates a lack of due diligence regarding systemic racism,” she said in her report.

In addition, Varma’s report states that the RCMP ignored her office’s requests to see federally collected racial data.

– With files from the Braunschweig news archive

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