WATERLOO REGION — It’s time someone from the local Black community sat at the table of the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board says police board chair Karen Redman.
Now is a good time to petition local MPPs and the provincial government to say “we would like a person of colour or a visible minority” to sit on the civilian oversight board, said Redman.
Currently, there is a vacant spot on the seven-member board. The position is appointed by the province, so the candidate is chosen by the Ontario government.
“This current board does not reflect the diversity of Waterloo Region,” said Redman, who is also regional chair. As the regional chair, she automatically gets a seat on police board.
The board is made up of seven people — three are elected regional councillors, three are appointed by the province for three-year terms and one represents the community at large which is chosen by regional council.
Rosita Tse is the only visible minority representation on the board. She was appointed by regional council.
Earlier this year, Tony Giovinazzo was appointed by the province as well as Ian McLean. McLean, the president of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, came to board last month.
The lack of diversity on the police board has been highlighted as police across North America come under scrutiny for how they treat members of the Black community.
Last week, organizers say up to 36,000 people gathered in downtown Kitchener to march in solidarity in a Black Lives Matter rally.
The African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region are working to end anti-Black racism. They have called for actions to defund the police, reallocating the money to communities they say need help and not officers policing them.
A member of the Black community on the police board will bring more diverse voices around the table, Redman said.
“It’s got everyone’s attention right now but it should always be part of the matrix of who sits on the board,” she said.
“Black Lives Matter has so engaged so many people in the community that have been reminded of the issue. It’s not a new issue,” Redman said.
“We can’t be complacent. Racism has no place in our community,” she said.
The board deals solely with governance issues and not police operations. They focus heavily on budgets and look at how police spend their monies.
But Redman said the board does talk about police operations and how programs are run.
“When you have citizen oversight of a police services board, you are representing the community,” she said.
Each member receives mandatory training from the province and local orientation sessions are offered by the police service. The board meets once a month at police headquarters on Maple Grove Road.
“We have lots of in-camera discussions often around personnel and union issues,” she said.
Many police boards across the province have current vacancies. Redman said many boards do not reflect the community they live in.
“We all need to do better,” she said.
Redman said the board has been given no indication from the province when the position will be filled. Applications are accepted online.
In a statement, Stephen Warner, spokesperson for the Office of the Solicitor General said the government “makes every effort to ensure that there is a strong pool of candidates of diverse backgrounds for consideration during the appointment selection process.”
Warner said the ministry will fill the position with “a committed and qualified member who reflects the values of the community and who is committed to keeping their community safe.”