Officials from Kingston police and the Kingston Police Association have penned a letter, assuring residents that in the face of struggles over racism and policing, that they as an organization will strive to work with residents by being part of a “culture of change.”
“We stand united and in solidarity with our community and those experiencing racism and discrimination in all its ugly forms,” the letter said, signed primarily by Kingston police chief Antje McNeely, as well as the deputy chief, three inspectors, and the president of the Kingston Police Association.
The letter came just hours before a Black Lives Matter vigil in McBurney Park, and after days of unrest in the United States following the death of Goerge Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis, Minn. who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Several protests in the United States have turned to riots, with videos showing extreme violence between police and protesters.
The unrest south of the border has led to numerous protests and vigils in Canada, and has brought up conversations about racism and police brutality north of the border.
It is in response to these conversations and civil unrest that the Black Luck Collective, a Kingston organization, has organized Tuesday’s vigil.
“We are gathering to acknowledge and mourn the lives lost to anti-Black racism in Canada and the lives that continue to be impacted by anti-Black racism in Canada; to show solidarity with those who seek justice across North America; and to affirm our support for Black people and Black communities,” the vigil’s Facebook page says.
McNeely, although not directly referencing the vigil in Kingston, did mention that Kingston police are aware of events like it popping up across the country.
“We acknowledge your right to bring these important issues to the forefront respectfully and peacefully. We will be there to support you in your efforts to promote healthy dialogue and to keep everyone safe,” the chief wrote.
The letter also promises to “listen and learn” from residents experiencing racism and to work to address biases and privilege within the police force.
“Time and again in our world we see violent and racist behaviours, both overt and subtle, demonstrated towards persons of colour and Indigenous peoples by those who hold power and privilege, including some in law enforcement. These behaviours have no place in our society; they are not condoned in our community; and they have no place in law enforcement,” McNeely said.
The vigil is set to take place at McBurney Park between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.