Public engagement in the works in effort to address systemic racism: London Police Services Board

A uniformed London police patch, Sept. 6, 2017.
A uniformed London police patch, Sept. 6, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

Police in London, Ont., are sharing more about what action is underway and forthcoming to address issues surrounding systemic racism.

The London Police Service (LPS) and London Police Services Board (LPSB) held an internal strategy session on Thursday focusing specifically on anti-racism. While the session was not public, LPSB chair Dr. Javeed Sukhera provided Global News with insights into the contents of the meeting afterwards.

According to a statement announcing the meeting itself, the session followed several weeks of public concern related to “anti-Black racism and the intersection of mental health and policing.”

Read more: Protesters rally outside Toronto police headquarters on final day of reform consultations

“The meeting was not really devoted to day-to-day business, it was really more devoted to training, listening, engagement, and thinking about what the next steps are that we need to take to move some of this important work forward,” Sukhera told Global News.

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“One big thing that we recognized and discussed before today and during today is there really is no quick fix to some of the big systemic problems that we’re trying to address.”

Sukhera previously presented a letter on racism and the culture of policing to the board, on June 18, which included 12 proposed actions. He says all of the items in the letter have been committed to, and many involve areas “where the Chief will be reporting back to us in detail.”

“We know that the issue of systemic racism that we’ve named is a deep issue and it’s going to require a lot of effort and an ongoing process of work and action,” he said.

“In terms of timelines, specifically, we are having a board meeting in September. What we’re hoping to figure out between now and then is ways to engage in a more meaningful way with the public, particularly with racialized Londoners, looking at ways to co-design some of the solutions to these problems with members of our community.”

Read more: London Police Services Board Chair addresses systemic racism with letter to the board

Mayor Ed Holder also briefly touched on Thursday’s police meeting during the daily media update with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, which was held as the strategy session was underway.

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Holder said he would leave formal comments to Sukhera, but did note that conversations are underway around the future of school resource officers, for example.

While police say work is only beginning to address these issues, Black Lives Matter London says there has been an “astounding lack of movement.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, it also alleged “bullying tactics” by police, specifically regarding the force’s decision to fly the Pride flag on Friday even though the Pride London Festival board asked police not to fly the flag.

The Pride London Festival board made the request of police in an act of solidarity with Black Lives Matter London, which had requested that local organizations rethink their relationships with police “and insist that they do better,” president Andrew Rosser told Global News earlier this week.

Read more: Pride London received no notice from police on decision to raise flag: president

Black Lives Matter London spokesperson Alexandra Kane told Global News on Thursday that while there are members of the London police who are also part of the LGBT2Q community, there are also BIPOC individuals who are part of that community.

“Why can’t you stand with them? This is an issue of humanity and this is an issue of police behaviour and police brutality. And, you know, LGBTQ+, people should realize and should recognize that Pride started as a protest. Pride started as as a protest against the injustices from police,” she said.

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“Having the police raise (the flag) anyway is saying, ‘well, we don’t really hear you about the issue. We don’t really care. We’re just going to raise the flag anyway.'”

When asked if there are concerns about the relationships between London police and Black Lives Matter London or Pride London stemming from the police decision to raise the Pride flag, Sukhera pointed to the initial statement released by police on Monday afternoon.

“We won’t be commenting any further on the issue of the Pride flag,” he said.

Click to play video 'Black Lives Matter artwork painted on street block in Montreal’s east end' Black Lives Matter artwork painted on street block in Montreal’s east end
Black Lives Matter artwork painted on street block in Montreal’s east end