By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
In light of recent events, Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin says change is needed within the police force, and change is coming.
“These are certainly historic times as significant events have changed the landscape of policing forever,” he says, noting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis raised the issue of police conduct, anti-black racism, training standards, and funding for police services around the world.
“The incident shook the public’s confidence in police,” he says. There were several large local marches and gatherings that took place across the region, including one at Memorial Park in Oshawa.
“Thankfully, all of our local events have been peaceful. Our officers have attended these events and engaged members in the community,” he adds. “We have heard these concerns loud and clear and we need to work together with our community partners, to improve our training, to do more outreach and address these ongoing issues.”
Martin says reviewing provincial standards for training is on the forefront as there is a need for more emphasis on de-escalation techniques, as well as much-needed improvement to the police and disciplinary process.
In a recent presentation to Durham Regional Council, Martin announced specific actions the DRPS will be taking within its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan to address the ongoing issues of systemic racism.
“The time to talk has long passed,” says Martin. “We must take immediate, meaningful action, and it starts with me and my executive team who have met and endorsed a four-point plan that we believe will make a difference,” he adds.
First, Martin says race-based data will be collected, as mandated by the province, not just on incidents where force is used, but across the service.
“It’s the only way we will know if we are treating people differently because of the colour of their skin,” says Martin.
There will also be a more in-depth demographic census of the DRPS in order to identify areas of concern and disparities in its work towards inclusion, including in leadership, promotions and career opportunities.
DRPS will also be looking at mandatory training about being a bystander.
“We want to make sure officers understand their duty to intervene if they find themselves questioning an arrest of the treatment or a community member,” says Martin.
Lastly, DRPS will be leveraging the experience of the community to help in the selection of the best, bias-free police officers.
“We’ve talked about this for many years and now it is time to act,” says Martin. “We believe these four steps are required for us to make long term changes to our organization,” he adds, noting plans are currently underway for implementation.
“Durham Regional Police Service is committed to seeing the rollout of these initiatives, and will move forward in a spirit of transparency and clarity.”