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Hosted by Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong, the event Defund the Peterborough Police: Direct Live Action took place via Zoom on Thursday evening. The Zoom panel’s objective was to open a dialogue between moderators and participants regarding the need to defund our local police by taking on an abolishment rather than reform approach in the attempt to eliminate the core issues that lie at the heart of the criminal justice system. This approach is to address the root causes of police brutality, much of which is the result of white supremacy and prejudice against the BIPOC community. By endorsing an abolishment-based strategy, the organization seeks to effectively reallocate resources, funding and responsibility away from the police and towards other public services and community-based models of safety, support and prevention, as stated in the document Building A Police-Free future, which can be accessed through BLM Nogojiwanong website.
“It is not just an American problem, racism in Canada shows up as denial”- Defund the Peterborough Police: Direct Live Action
With increasing awareness and exposure of police brutality in the United States, Canada’s structural and systematic racism has been oftentimes overlooked. In August, 2020 the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHCR) released their Second Interim report: A Disparate Impact, on the inquiry into racial into racial profiling and racial discriminations on Black persons by the Toronto Police Service which stated that “Black people are significantly overrepresented in all use of force cases involving the Toronto police”. This is evidenced by the significant number of Black people suffering in Black people in SIU investigations as well as their gross over-representation in lower-level use of force incidents. It is argued that these cannot be explained by factors such as patrol zones in low-crime and high-crime neighbourhoods, violent crime rates and/or average income, as the over-representation remained constant and significant even after controlling these factors, suggesting that race was a much stronger predictor of police use of force.
Moreover, with a budgetary increase of 2% annually in the past 10 years, a new light-armoured vehicle (LAV) donated by the Ontario Power Generation (a corporation owned by the Ontario Government) and a new strategic 2020-2023 plan proposed by the Police Services board which included the development of a larger police station. The community's concerns have been raised regarding the power stance given to the Peterborough police and the harmful possibilities that may arise from the authority granted to this institution.
The moderators of the session, who would like to remain anonymous, led the group through an ethical and friendly welcoming. With rising concerns about the increasing funding and plans that will grant the Peterborough police greater power, the BLM Nogojiwanong argue that police presence is ineffective in the community by over-targeting BIPOC individuals and escalating situations in areas that they are not trained to deal with. This includes their involvement as part of the Board in the Peterborough Drug Strategy and the use of “enforcement” as a pillar of strategy to handle drug-related situations.
By formulating an informative discussion regarding the expanding budget of the Peterborough Police as well as their increased presence in situations they are not trained to deal with. The Zoom session covered issues of housing, structural racism and spiking rates of drug-abuse and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this, questions arise with respect to where the police currently fit in this picture and more importantly, how we should strive to allow experts on the subject to deal with these, rather than immediately seeking police intervention. The session resulted in a very informative discussion and created space to reassess the way our society is currently structured.
The BLM Nogojiwanong team and supporters are currently sending letters, calls and emails to councillors and members of Parliament. Targeting Councillor Gary Baldwin as well as the Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien who are part of the Police Service Board, urging them to stand in support of defunding the Peterborough police as well as to withdraw the planned investments provided, and direct it to the Drug Strategy and other public services and organizations.
As the review of the draft budget will be held on November 2nd and the budget will be finalized on December 14, the fight is far from over. Upcoming events hosted by the BLM Nogojiwanong include a Zoom session this upcoming Wednesday October 27 held at 3:00P.M.
Moreover, on November 16 there will be a community meeting from the city council which we are all free to attend. The public meeting will be an opportunity to express our thoughts and concerns, allowing a platform for voices to be heard.