Regina’s newly-appointed Board of Police Commissioners officially began their term Friday.
In September, Regina city council voted to expand the civilian presence on the board from two to four.
Over the next 12 months, returning civilian commissioner Jada Yee will be joined by Colina Paul, Yashu Bither and Juliet Bushi, as well as the mayor and two councillors on the board, which helps set police priorities, objectives and budgets.
“With the recent events going on in the world, now’s the perfect opportunity to look at that and really put it into motion,” Yee told Global News in September as council was preparing to debate the expansion.
“You need to have voices and experiences that represent the diversity of Regina.”
Global News also spoke to Regina Police Chief Evan Bray in September. Bray expressed his support for the expansion as well.
“It’s going to give us more community member involvement. That’s more outreach in the community and ultimately that will help shape our police force in the years to come,” Bray said.
The board’s term is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021. Their first meeting with Bray and the RPS will be scheduled in January.
Bushi, who was also recently elected a Regina Catholic School Division Board Trustee, said she hopes to use her appointment in part to examine the role police play in addressing social issues.
Particularly, she says she hopes to help the board review how police interact with Black people.
Bushi was an emcee at some of the Black Lives Matter rallies in Saskatchewan earlier this year.
“In my community, absolutely there are some issues we need to address when it comes to policing and racial profiling, as well as better representation,” Bushi said, adding that she wants to promote community engagement as well.
“In my 16 or so years living in Regina I have never seen a police organization reach out to the Black community to engage in a very neutral community-based program.”
Bither, meanwhile, says he hopes to help the city take a new look at police priorities amid the pandemic.
“We need to challenge any status quo. Is the budget aligning to the current priorities as we shift gears because of COVID-19?” Bither said.
Bither, who has served on various community boards through his 20 years in Regina, added that he’s excited to add to the variety of perspectives guiding police activity.
“We don’t have to completely re-invent the wheel,” he said. “But as we often say, either adapt or adopt.”
Commissioners don’t receive a salary, but members do collect a $90 honorarium per month.
Total board expenses incurred in 2019 were $15,383.
The oversight of the Board of Police Commissioners does have its limitations.
It isn’t, for instance, involved in any conduct investigations.
Last June, the government of Saskatchewan took steps to give the Public Complaints Commission the power to appoint independent investigators in cases of in-custody death or injury.
Under Saskatchewan’s previous system, Investigation Observers were appointed by the deputy minister of justice and were always members of a Saskatchewan police service, RCMP detachment, or retired police officer.