WATERLOO REGION — The organization that oversees Waterloo Regional Police Service and sets its budget will discuss the issues raised by Black activists at a meeting this week, says the board chair.
“It is our intent to hear from the Chief (Bryan Larkin) what actions have been taken and what undertakings are being made within the police service to address systemic racism,” Karen Redman, chair of the Police Services Board, said in an email Sunday.
“The board will discuss what action it wants to direct police leadership to take to address the issues outlined in the Black Lives Matter concerns.”
When asked if there were specific concerns the board would address on Wednesday at its monthly meeting, Redman said the board would decide at the meeting.
“It will be a discussion that focuses on what shape the path forward will take with an emphasis on taking action.”
Earlier this month, thousands of people marched in downtown Kitchener in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to recognize racial injustices faced by Black and Indigenous people. It was one of many protests around the world demanding fundamental changes in law enforcement, including defunding of police forces, to address systemic racism.
Following the Kitchener march, local Black activists and organizers put forth action items to end anti-Black racism. They are calling for the defunding of the police service at a minimum of $29.3 million, and for those funds to be invested in community-led health and safety initiatives for impoverished and racialized groups. They also want the school resource officer program and the community outreach program for youth scrapped.
Ruth Cameron, a member of the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region advisory committee, said it’s important the calls to action are not mischaracterized as concerns.
“That downplays the seriousness of what we’re requesting,” she said, adding she is not seeing a response to their specific requests.
“The calls to action are about defunding police. (There is) nothing within our calls to action that speaks to reform of the police and we see any call which speaks to anti-bias training as ineffective.”
Police budgets are determined by the police board and funded by regional taxes.
In addition to Redman, who chairs the board, there are two other elected members from regional council, one community-at-large-member who is appointed by regional council, and three provincially appointed members.
All the members of the board were contacted by the Record to ask if they would raise the issue of defunding on Wednesday.
The two members who are elected regional councillors — Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz and Cambridge councillor Karl Kiefer — were the only two to respond.
“I believe Chair Redman has replied to the community on behalf of the board,” said Shantz in an email. “The topic is on the agenda and I will participate in the discussion at that time.”
Get the latest in your inbox
Never miss the latest news from The Record, including up-to-date coronavirus coverage, with our email newsletters.
The other members of the board — Ian McLean, Rosita Tse and Tony Giovinazzo — did not respond to the request for comment by Sunday afternoon.
There is one vacant spot on the board — the position available is by appointment of the province.