July 12, 2021: KCHC and Kingston Police announced today a unique new partnership: “Kingston Speaks Inclusion: Community Consultations Hosted by Kingston Police & Kingston Community Health Centres.”
The goal of this project is to conduct a series of community consultations to hear feedback on how the Kingston Police can increase equity, diversity, inclusion and indigenization (EDII) throughout their organization.
Chief Antje McNeely explains the impetus for this initiative: “Recent events have brought increasing awareness to the need to re-examine Canada’s history and the legacy of residential schools. This is a painful time for Indigenous communities, and the Kingston Police would like to be allies in the healing process. However, we cannot be allies unless we critically reflect on our past and put a plan in place for our present and future that will be inclusive of the communities that we serve.”
In January 2021, the Kingston Police partnered with Dr. Anita Jack-Davies, founder of Mosaic Cross-Cultural Solutions and the Badges2Bridges law enforcement program, to support them with their strategic planning on EDII. This past spring, Dr. Jack-Davies led preliminary consultations with members of Kingston’s Black community. These consultations provided invaluable information, and were a guiding point in the creation of this new partnership.
The Kingston Police reached out to KCHC as a leader and a trusted organization that has worked tirelessly in the Kingston region to support equity-seeking groups. McNeely adds: “We are hoping to learn about the experiences of Kingston residents by tapping into KCHC’s vast community network. We believe that this partnership will help us learn about the thoughts and concerns of Kingston residents in ways that we may not be able to, if we were to work alone.”
Mike Bell, CEO of KCHC speaks of the importance of this work, and the need for consultations to be conducted in an inclusive and accessible manner: “As a Community Health Centre, and a member of the Alliance for Healthier Communities, we see systemic racism as a public health issue. KCHC is thankful to partner with the Kingston Police to assist with their community engagement plan, and help begin to address systemic racism in our community.”
“The voices of all equity-seeking populations are all too often unheard. We believe that this work must be community-led, and therefore, we are eager to create safe opportunities for all community members to share their thoughts and experiences related to discrimination. Only then, can we begin to build trusting relationships in order to move forward in our community in a meaningful way.”
Wendy Vuyk, KCHC’s Director of Community Health, adds: “I am optimistic that engaging with our community members on the topic of racism in this way will foster a renewed sense of hope, as individuals who may not have felt safe in sharing their thoughts and feelings about their experiences with the police in our community will now have an opportunity to do so in a comfortable and caring environment. This work will allow us to gather meaningful information from our most valuable resource: our community members.”
The KCHC team will be working closely with the Kingston Police's CORE team (Community Oriented Response and Engagement), and many of the project outcomes will be shaped by community input. The summer months will be spent in an outreach phase, making connections and building relationships for this project.
EDI officer Constable Bryan McMillan states, “My goal is to work to develop open and honest communication between the Kingston Police and the community. I look forward to working with our Chief, our CORE Unit, our Board and members of our community to make equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenization a priority and I’m eager to learn and grow in this new role and with guidance from the community.”
Roger Romero, KCHC’s Manager of Youth Services, sees this as a real opportunity to ensure that the Kingston Police are hearing feedback from people they may not otherwise connect with. “We all want to ensure that diverse voices are captured as opposed to the same, recurring ones that are present when they do “town hall” style community engagement. Equity seeking voices are often drowned out due to vocal participants. We will work together over the summer months to get out into the community and build trusting relationships in order to foster constructive feedback conversations from the community. “
One of the outcomes of this process, as suggested by Chief McNeely, is the eventual creation of a community advisory circle that will guide Kingston police’s EDII work into the future. Many of the other outcomes of this project are not pre-established but rather will be shaped by the results of the community consultations.
The Kingston Police have created an EDII webpage at www.kingstonpolice.ca/diversity that currently contains details on what constitutes hate/bias motivated crimes and incidents, its Reassurance Program where lines of communication are established between victims of such offences, a glossary of commonly used terms, and future updates on the progression with community consultations and the Community Inclusion Council.