KITCHENER — Waterloo Region’s Police Chief says he’s prepared to listen and learn, as his organization takes steps to address systemic racism.
Bryan Larkin was emotional at Wednesday’s Police Services Board meeting, as he acknowledged the concerns raised about policing over the last few weeks.
He says he’s disappointed when he hears that people fear the police, but he recognizes that for racialized communities, it’s an institution that embodies systemic discrimination and bias.
Chief Larkin says his service has work to do to improve outcomes, strengthen relationships and build greater trust.
That will include more anti-racism training for all members of the organization.
The force will also be changing how they recruit and promote their members so it better reflects the community.
Chief Larkin also touched on the pause and review of the School Resource Officer Program, and says they are also reviewing the Community Resource Officer Program, which focuses on responding to people who need acute acre intervention in the downtown city cores.
He’s also pushing for more conversation over body-work cameras, saying it’s a tool that can help with transparency and accountability.
But Chief Larkin did not use the work ‘defund’ in his discussion.
When asked why he said: “I want to say I’m committed to a discussion on delivering service differently, but I think you have to look at this in a very complex situation. We can’t simply, tomorrow as a police service, say we’re not going to respond to mental health calls for service. There has to be capacity in other systems. So I think it requires a much broader discussion. I think it requires a more systems approach versus just take money from the police budget. I don’t view that as the long-term solution.”
Chief Larkin also told the Police Services Board that it has been a tough couple of weeks.
After a 10 second pause, he went on to say: “As a person of white privilege and as your Chief of Police, I’ve been reflecting on the many voices. I do believe we have an opportunity to engage our community, work with all levels of government and collectively work towards fundamental change as we modernize policing for the 21st century.”
The African Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region has been calling for the defunding of police.
Their spokesperson told CTV News that they’re disappointed that the Police Chief did not acknowledge it at the meeting Wednesday, suggesting he reject money from the region and have it used for preventative efforts instead.
The ACB Network says Chief Larkin’s statement did not address their calls for action, and they’re not asking for body cameras on officers.
“The reality is the evidence, to put it lightly, suggests that body cameras only film the brutalization,” says Teneile Warren with the ACB Network. “Police officers can turn them on and off at will and we have not seen anything to suggest that it is decreased police brutality, increased accountability. It simply has created another layer of trauma for Black, Indigenous and other racialized bodies.”
Warren says, to start, they’re looking for a minimum $29 million defunding of police.
The region has already approved $180 million in funding for Waterloo Regional Police this year.