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How Should Policing Change in Canada | Coalition for Canadian Police Reform

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Last fall the Edmonton Police Service’s Commitment to Action report said:  “Following worldwide protests calling for social justice and changes to policing, Edmonton City Council held public hearings in summer 2020, with the goal of better understanding how Edmontonians viewed police-community relationships.” The report addresses feedback received during an extensive engagement of EPS with the citizens of our city and their call to action for changed policing.

 

We are members of C-CPR and we are proud of the abilities and capabilities of policing in Canada. We are two former police chiefs, a PhD at the University of Toronto and a former police commissioner.  C-CPR is the Coalition for Canadian Police Reform.

We believe that citizens and police should work together to achieve positive change for policing in our nation. 

Our police officers need 21st Century training for 21st Century society. Our officers need training that is responsive to diverse community needs, and which meets agreed upon standards of practice across our nation.

The EPS report contained quotes from citizens and summaries of their thoughts. Here are some of those quotes and thoughts that specifically supported changes to police recruit training.

First there were skills identified as lacking.  Officers and recruits should:

  • Recognize cultural differences with both verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Understand the uniqueness of cultural communities and racialized communities
  • Better understand the worldviews of others.
  • Understand mental health and addictions.
  • Train on trauma-informed practice and understanding the issues around disabilities.
  • Increase their awareness about the expertise offered by the social sector by being placed as new recruits with social agencies.
  • Learn pronoun awareness in their language and be able to recognize conscious and unconscious bias in themselves and other officers.

There were quotes and statements that described how training in trauma-informed practices might best occur.  We see these as a request for application of best practice methods in pedagogy. This is the art and science of teaching.

  • “A white person cannot educate someone on what it is like to be a marginalized person.”
  • Pursue opportunities to bring all officers up to the same level of training.
  • “Trauma informed practices should be considered core, mandatory training that is routinely refreshed.”
  • The training should be conducted by community organizations…that have experience working with traumatized individuals and families.

The Commitment to Action report is a breath of fresh air from an already very progressive police service. However, we feel that the action plan which Chief Dale McPhee has said will be developed for the EPS should in fact be an action plan for the entirety of policing in Canada.

It is critical for police training in Canada to embrace best practices in education delivery. We believe that every police recruit educator in Canada should be able to put principles of adult education into action and close the gap between theory and practice. Policing is a complex mix of knowledge, values and actions. We know that there is excellent instruction taking place across Canada in different College programs and police services, however, feel it would be helpful to consider a rigorous competency based learning and assessment framework that is consistent across Canada, and which reflects industry best practice. We see this as a collaborative process that is reflective of the diversity of experience expressed in the feedback in the EPS report and inclusive of the citizens and communities that police officers serve. We recognize that this call to education reform is as much about creating a professional socialization process that is reflected in the design and delivery of education as it is about the simple dissemination of knowledge. 

We propose that a Canadian College of Policing be established to guide the development and delivery of a national curriculum for recruits that will incorporate not only the perspectives of the citizens described in this report but many other important elements of “best-in-class” education.

Curriculum should be matched to the needs and perspectives of Canadian society. Teachers should be skilled in delivering curriculum that is practice based and adheres to principles of social care. Community placements and simulation training should be guided by best practice and experience. Both recruits and their educators should be evaluated by a single Canadian standard.

Canadian society is faced with great stress from extrinsic factors both social, physical and climatic. Our democracy depends on capable, community centred peace-keeping by our police officers. It is crucial for police training in Canada to be mindful of and responsive to the social and cultural changes that are taking place across our country and remain relevant for the 21st Century realities of Canadian society.

You can find out more in Tee’s interview with us or on our LinkedIn account at Coalition for Canadian Police Reform or at c-cpr.ca.

 

 

John Lilley MD FRCPC is a clinical professor at the University of Alberta.

Nancy McNaughton PhD. is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto

David Cassels is a former Chief of Police in Winnipeg and is currently a consultant.

Togbi Tamakloe is a former Police Commissioner and First Nations administrator. 

Roger Chaffin is a retired former Chief of Police in Calgary and is currently a consultant.

The EPS Commitment to Action report is available at https://commitmenttoaction.ca/

This article was first published in the Edmonton Journal. John modified it and sent it to LCCMedia. 

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