They’re who you’re supposed to call when you’re in trouble, but as protests highlight police brutality, racism, and discrimination around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Victoria’s mayor says it’s become clear not everyone feels safe around the police.
“There’s significant feeling in our community from the Black community, Indigenous community, that there’s racism in Victoria and that the police are not exempt from that,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.
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So Helps, who co-chairs the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, brought forward a list of recommendations that was unanimously approved at Tuesday night’s meeting. She says it will begin with listening.
“The first motion is the most important which is to ask people of colour in our community what changes need to be made at the Victoria Police Department,” Helps said.
Some of the other recommendations include looking at what bias awareness, anti-racism, cultural sensitivity and de-escalation training officers receive and recommendations on what can be added.
It also calls for a demographic analysis to be completed to look at the racial and gender makeup of the force and ensure it reflects the composition of the general population.
Steven Baileys, who has sat on the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee for a decade, says it’s a start.
“I think it’s a really important starting point for any police service to start by taking a look in the mirror to determine who they are,” said Baileys, who is the Community Development Coordinator with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.
“There seems to be a real surge right now a real momentum and an opportunity to create some meaningful change,” he said.
Chief Del Manak says while his officers do extensive diversity training, he’s ready to listen and make changes where needed.
“Having the trust and the respect and the confidence of the public is paramount to me,” he said.
“I’m willing to listen, and I think we need to be better and I think this is a real wake up call. I’ve certainly got my own views from being on the receiving end of racism in many many forms, and I’ve got some information I think I can share,” he said.
Everyone involved admits the problem won’t be fixed overnight but rather in the weeks, months, and even years ahead.