Increases in crime rates often prompt residents to call for increasing the number of city police officers. This is not always the answer. In fact, it is the most expensive response to crime, and it does not guarantee greater public safety or reduced levels of crime. Instead, we need to look at root causes and develop appropriate measures to deal with these realities. Upon a review of best practices and proven strategies, solutions might include:
- Increased funding for gang diversion strategies
- Encourage pedestrian traffic and densification to get more people out into the community
- An effective Housing First homelessness strategy
- Easier access to alcohol and drug treatment
- Increased funding for mental health services and supports
- A review of police staffing to ensure officers are on the street and civilian employees are doing non-policing work
- Assessing the effectiveness of foot and bicycle patrols
- Improved training for police and mental health workers to deal with what are health, not crime, issues
A more effective approach to community safety and wellbeing
Regina’s police budget is approaching $100 million yet crime is on the rise. That’s why I worked with my Council colleagues to pass the Community Wellbeing and Public Safety strategy, which situates the City in a leadership role by looking at the complex root causes of what we understand to be crime in our city. The strategy will be presented to and reviewed by Council in 2021. Our current approach is broken and even Chiefs of police in Saskatchewan’s major urban centres are recognizing that we can’t arrest our way out of these problems.
As City Councillor, I have advocated for meaningful change in how policing is done in this city. A number of high-profile cases over the past few years (specifically the incidents involving Nadine Machiskinic, Simon Ash Moccasin, Eddy Stonechild) demonstrate a need for a review of policing and policing culture in our city.
I commit to helping to bring about such a change by listening to the concerns of residents and working closely with community and grassroots organizations that have been confronting these issues in real and meaningful ways in our city. It’s critical that we name the problems and work together to find solutions. This process must involve an engagement with the Regina Police Service.
As Councillor, I have supported initiatives that increase public accountability, such as:
Implementing a Citizens’ Police Review Board
This involves the creation of a more accessible and independent complaint system than the current Public Complaints Commission. This Board would be arms-length from the Ministry of Justice and would necessarily commit to Indigenous representation and an agenda of reconciliation, in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. Both Council and the Board of Police Commission asked the government to institute a more accountable, civil oversight system to this effect.
Reform of the Board of Police Commission
The Commission must approach its mandate in a spirit of critical engagement to be effective. Specifically, the monthly public meetings should be spaces for public engagement with police and policing. Board members must also ask tough questions of the Regina Police Service. As a Councillor, I worked with colleagues to craft a motion that demanded expanded representation on the Board. It’s not enough to have just one Indigenous member, and in the future, the Mayor should be removed as Chair and replaced with a member of the public.
Provincial efforts to amend the Police Act of 1990
We currently have a police officer on our police force convicted of assault. The Act needs to be revised to hold individual members of the police service accountable with appropriate sanctions.
A review to the Unwanted Guests Initiative
This is a project concerned with the geographic displacement of the poor. I am committed to making Regina more inclusive, not punishing people for being poor. Instead, Regina needs to invest in an effective affordable housing and homelessness strategy to confront what are clearly social problems.
A review of carding and street check practices
Experts and social justice advocates argue that carding and street check practices constitute a form of racialized policing. It is imperative that Council champion an independent review of these practices. We also need to ask the community if racial stats should be collected by the RPS in the course of street checks in order to confirm claims of racial profiling.
The key word with this approach is “community.” This takes leadership at City Council, in the Regina Police Service, and at the Board of Police Commissioners. Unless leadership at the provincial and municipal level changes we’re stuck with the same approach and a meaningful embrace of community policing principles is unlikely.
Already, there are certain community policing initiatives that have a potential to be effective. Regina has several ongoing community policing initiatives such as the Citizens on Patrol Program, the mâmawêyatitân centre, Treaty Four Citizens’ Police Academy, and the Elders Advisory Council. The impact, however, has been minimal. It is time to rethink current initiatives and ways of utilizing them and look at promoting some new programs. Given that Regina is in the fifteenth place when it comes to youth crimes among 237 municipalities included in the list of most dangerous Canadian places, it is recommended that we consider youth-focused initiatives.