Regina Police Service (RPS) Chief Evan Bray made a statement on Twitter on behalf of the RPS regarding the death of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black motorist who died Jan. 10 from injuries sustained in a confrontation with police during a traffic stop. Five fired officers have been charged in his death.
“I reached out last night to a few leaders in our city that are members of the Black community to express my sympathy,” Bray said in a video. “Our police service, while sickened by what is unfolding, is even more steadfast than our determination to work with community to build meaningful relationships and as importantly, commit to transparency, accountability, and oversight because we know with good relationships and with a commitment shows the community, they can trust our police service.”
Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) Chief Troy Cooper said in a prepared statement that he also reached out to local Black community leaders to discuss the issue and offer support. He emphasized the importance that SPS continues to work on building trust in the community.
“Although this tragedy occurred in another country, it will impact trust and confidence in policing by Black and all equity-deserving communities in Canada as well,” stated Cooper. “Our efforts to enhance de-escalation and unconscious bias training are first steps, and the community-led redesign of our advisory committee on diversity to include Black voices will continue … together we condemn this unnecessary and tragic loss of life.”
Obianuju Juliet Bushi, who formerly sat on the Board of Police Commissioners, said Nichols’ death will heighten the fears and vulnerability toward police officers within the Black community and it’s something that will, unfortunately, continue.
“We do have a bad history with police officers and of course the (RPS) chief is doing his best to try (and) engage in Black communities in Regina,” said Bushi. “But unfortunately, we’ve taken 10 steps back right now by not having a voice at that table.”
Bushi sat on the board of police commissioners as recently as December 2022, when her term ended and was not renewed for 2023. She has conducted research into policing at the University of Regina and says the community is growing but needs a voice to represent the historic experience Black people have had with police. Bushi expresses disappointment that there is no Black representation on the Board of Police Commissioners.
“My voice on that police board was actually very relevant and it was quite needed, especially in this day and age,” she said. “They are missing out on understanding Black culture and the needs and wants of Black people in the community and to protect Black voices and Black people in Regina.”
The Regina Board of Police Commissioners consists of the mayor, two city councillors and four civilian members (one of whom must be of Indigenous descent).
A representative from the City of Regina said the current board members, who were appointed by city council in November 2022, were recommended under the consideration of former Board of Police Commissioners chair Sandra Masters.
Newly appointed chair Jada Yee, a civilian member who took over the role this month, said “moving forward I think the commission will need aspects of all residents.”
“Absolutely the Black community, but I also want to see members of the LGBTQ2S community, and members of other communities as well.”
— with files from Connor O’Donovan.