Three new groups of diverse volunteers are now working with the Edmonton Police Service, representing groups who often face racism or discrimination.
The community councils, as they’re being called, include Nîsohkamâkewin, or “the act of helping” in Cree for Indigenous people, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) for 2SLGBTQ+ and Chief’s Community for minorities.
“These councils aren’t just checking a box,” explained Chief Dale McFee.
“These councils are giving meaningful input, for me personally, to listen to them, to get advice, so we make the right decisions, or at least decisions where we’ve looked beyond just the Edmonton Police Service.”
As an example of concrete action taken in response to community concerns, McFee points to a recent hire following a discussion with the Somalian community.
“They asked for us to hire a liaison person attached the the serious crime unit that maybe has the language ability to speak and update them on a regular basis,” he explained.
The SOGIE volunteers helped police find respectful ways to search transgender people.
“We’re actually putting scanners before they enter our detention management unit, rather than do that intrusive, invasive search by hand,” McFee said.
The councils will not only bring forward their own ideas and concerns, but also act as sounding boards for new initiatives and policies brought forward by EPS.
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“We’re going to have a data dashboard here right away,” McFee said.
“What are we missing? You’re members of the community, how is this going to resonate in your community? Is this going to cause problems in your community if we release this?”
The goal is to improve relationships between community and police.
“We need to recognize the relationship between EPS and the Edmonton Indigenous community is still in the process of healing and repairing past harms,” explained Christie Pace, EPS’ Indigenous relations co-ordinator.
The councils will also help police understand and prevent crime.
“We were waiting for people to report incidents and we weren’t going out and seeking what those incidents were in a proactive way. That left us with a lot of blindspots,” explained Todd Herron, SOGIE’s co-chair.
There is no budget amount allocated to the councils at this time. McFee said in terms of accountability, the volunteers won’t stay on if they don’t see any benefits from investing their time.
Annual reports will be presented, outlining what each council has accomplished.