Police Services Board approves motion to address systemic racism within police service

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Police Services Board has approved a motion calling on the police service to create a more equitable and inclusive service for its members and the community.

Daljit Nirman’s motion at Monday afternoon’s Ottawa Police Services Board meeting makes several recommendations to address systemic racism, discrimination and bias within the service.

One of the recommendations is for Police Chief Peter Sloly to “redesign the long-standing structures and systems that exist with the Ottawa Police Service to ensure they are more equitable and inclusive for all members.”

Nirman notes Chief Sloly and the Ottawa Police Service have introduced the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. Nirman adds the service has created the Directorate of Respect, Values and Inclusion to “strengthen the ability of the service to advance the 2020 goals and organizational culture more broadly.”

Nirman says the Ottawa Police Services Board and the Ottawa Police Service have a “demonstrated commitment to promoting the values of diversity, equity and inclusion and in continuing to build a workforce that is reflective of all of the communities and neighbourhoods it serves.”

“Based on a review of the work that has been completed and now planned and to ensure there is no gap in activities addressing systemic racism and bias which requires overt and sustained attention.”

Nirman’s motion makes five recommendations for the Ottawa Police Services Board to direct the Chief of Police to act:

  1. “The efforts of the Ottawa Police Service to address its culture inequalities, should be a whole-of-organization initiative, that is inclusive of all members, both women and men, Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+, civilian and sworn.”
  2. “Redesign the long-standing structures and systems that exist within the OPS to ensure they are more equitable and inclusive for all members by leveraging the Ottawa Police Services Board, the Community Equity Council, key community stakeholders and all members.”
  3. “Task the new Respect Values and Inclusive Directorate to track incidents of discrimination and bias within the Ottawa Police Service that are not currently accounted for through our formal complaint systems.”
  4. “The Ottawa Police Service Racial Profiling Policy should be reviewed to ensure that it is current and reflective of leading practices. The policy should also be evaluated to ensure that systems and supports are in place.”
  5. “The Ottawa Police Service establish a partnership with the City of Ottawa’s Anti-Racism Secretariat to ensure that it considers leading practices to address racism, reduces duplication of efforts and develops an inventory of approaches that can be utilized across all city departments and programs.”

Upon carriage of the motion, Nirman thanked the board.

“I am truly proud of your collective leadership and courage to name the issue and address it head-on,” he said. 

In April, Chief Sloly said a “disgusting, racist meme” circulating within the service was “more evidence of the need for a serious overhaul of our culture of ethics and ethical behaviour.”

“The culture of the Ottawa Police Service needs significant improvement. We can no longer ignore this reality.”

An officer was charged under the Police Services Act as part of the investigation into the meme.

In his verbal report to the Police Services Board on Monday, Sloly said the culture of policing needs to change.

“We have to abandon to concept of the ‘thin blue line’ that separates us from the community and instead embrace a ‘thin blue thread’ culture that sees police interwoven with all other threads in the fabric of society,” he said.

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