The diversity officer with the Halifax Regional Police wants to breathe new life into an old idea, by revitalizing a community-based advisory committee.
“One of the things that we don’t enjoy seeing is constant issues of gun violence within the community. That’s come up within several of the community hall meetings, and issues surrounding race, religion, Islamophobia things like these,” said Const. Amit Parasram, Halifax Regional Police Diversity Officer.
“If we’re able to address some of these community-related issues, that’s really what we’re after.”
In 2003, an inquiry by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission found that Dartmouth boxer Kirk Johnson was discriminated against by Halifax police based on race, after he was stopped by officers in 1998.
Following the decision, several recommendations were made including starting something known as the Chief’s Diversity Advisory Committee. The committee was formed, but it’s been inactive for years.
“A lot had to do with the fact that there were a lot of discussions but there was no concrete decisions that were made and no concrete actions that were being done,” said Jean-Michel Blais, Halifax Regional Police Chief.
“Since there was a lack of feedback, that feedback loop wasn’t maintained.”
On Monday afternoon, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners heard a report from Parasram that said one of the things a new committee would do differently this time around is to have a function in place that would require police to report back to the community.
The proposed committee – called the Police Diversity Advisory Committee – would also involve Halifax District RCMP. When the original committee was formed more than a decade ago, it did not have RCMP involvement.
“At the end of the day, we don’t police independently,” said Parasram.
“HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) is relatively large and to suggest that the problems that exist within HRM can be addressed only by involvement from Halifax Regional Police, I think would be small minded, so the inclusion of the RCMP should address some of those issues within our outskirts as well as within the city core itself.”
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It’s hoped committees like the one being proposed can help create more dialogue between police officers and the public.
“I do believe that they will help in terms of that, I don’t believe it’s a solution to that problem but they definitely will provide insight that the police department doesn’t have access to without input from community organizations,” said Parasram.
The Board of Police Commissioners agreed to defer the issue of the proposed Police Diversity Committee until a later date, so they can gather and process more information.
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