A psychologist appearing before the House of Commons Public Safety committee told Members of Parliament that more training will not stop racism in policing or how officers act.
“If you put people into a system where the ethos is that it’s an us vs them mentality, the training doesn’t matter because they get hooked into that system,” said Myrna Lashley, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University. “They have to work with those people who believe there’s a warrior perspective going on.”
The committee has now heard hours of presentations on the effects racism in the police force is having on Indigenous and other communities.
MPs learned that youth, inexperience mixed with a lack of training also plays a role in the continuation of mistrust and incidents between police and the people they’re supposed to serve.
That is especially true in the north where the RCMP may be the only federal service in a community.
“It is no surprise that that one presence then becomes seen in an adversarial fashion,” said Chrisian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “And that some of the members, certainly not all, I’d say a minority, internalizes that as us and them mentaility.”
The committee learned Friday that upwards of 3,500 people in Canada file complaints against the RCMP each year.
The Chairperson of the RCMP Civilian Complaints Commission said that about 76 concerned racism or bias.
“Indigenous people do not make use of the public complaints system,” said Chairperson Lahaie Michelaine. “And that is an issue for us that we need to work on. The best way to work on that is through better public education and better outreach.”
The issue of wellness checks by police also was the subject of the hearings.
People are calling for changes to be made after Chantel Moore, a First Nations woman from B.C., who moved to New Brunswick, was shot and killed by an Edmundston police officer conducting a wellness check on June 4.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly agreed that something needs to be done and these checks could be handled better.
He suggested mental health workers be available when a 911 call comes in.
“So right at the point we can properly assess the need for the call and the right services to go where the police will always be an option,” he said. “Quite often they will be dispatched through the social services worker or a mental health worker.
“But immediate contact will be the right resources and not just he police resources.”
Sloly noted a reformed system is also better for front line officers saying it’s impossible for them to deal effectively with the vast array of issues they face.
“It has created an unimaginable amount of stress and strain on our front line officers. They suffer when they cannot save people, and they suffer when they’re accused of not doing enough, the right thing or even the wrong thing,” said Sloly. “And we’ve put them in a position of frustration and sometimes failure.”