Hamilton Black community seeks advisory panel to address policing concerns

Lyndon George

Members of the Black community in Hamilton are spearheading efforts to establish an advisory panel aimed at tackling concerns regarding policing in the city. According to Lyndon George, Executive Director of Hamilton’s Anti-Racism Resource Centre (HARRC), the initiative stems from extensive community discussions, gaining momentum following a town hall hosted by HARRC in February.

The proposed panel would convene Black residents on a monthly basis to raise questions and address issues with the police service and board. George emphasized ongoing efforts to bolster community support, citing Peel Regional Police’s community-led anti-racism advisory committee as a model.

Kojo Damptey

However, despite being in its infancy, the Hamilton panel faces challenges in formalizing its memorandum of understanding with the police. Recent data reveals stark disparities, with Black individuals both the primary targets of hate crimes in Hamilton and disproportionately subjected to police use of force.

While Hamilton police released data indicating Black individuals accounted for the highest proportion of hate crime victims, they maintained that such discrepancies did not necessarily equate to discrimination. Nevertheless, George highlighted a pervasive sentiment within the Black community of being unheard by law enforcement, underscoring the need for substantive change.

Recent correspondence, including letters from HARRC and other Black community stakeholders, underscored a deep-seated frustration with the police’s purported lack of transparency and accountability. Calls for an independent anti-racism committee to oversee initiatives like the hate crime review team reflect a broader demand for community-led processes.

Despite assurances from police chief Frank Bergen regarding the importance of community dialogue, skepticism persists among community leaders like Kojo Damptey and anti-racism expert Ameil Joseph. Both Damptey and Joseph echoed sentiments of mistrust and urgency for meaningful reform.

As discussions continue, the imperative for tangible action to address systemic issues within Hamilton’s policing framework becomes increasingly apparent.