Hamilton community advocates want a say on who sits on police advisory panel

Last October the Hamilton Police Services (HPC) published statistics showing that Black people were grossly over represented when it comes to police use of force. The statistics were being collected since 2020 under a Provincial government mandate. The intent was to expose any racial biases or stereotyping within police services.

Lyndon George

In December the HPS was told by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) that they have not developed a strategy that connects with the data in order to open a way towards ending systemic racism in the province. To that end, the OACP tasked HPS to come up with a strategy designed specifically for their community.

However, the plan to include an internal project team and a community advisory panel is facing criticism from community advocates who say that an independent process should be used to pick members of the panel; the HPS should not be the one naming the panel participants.  Advocates suggested that panelists should be drawn from leaders representing diverse racialized groups who can “provide lived experience, insight, and civilian perspective.”

Dr. Anjali Menezes

Executive director of Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre, Lyndon George, said that having the police service lead the creation of the panel could be perceived as biased and discourage some people from participating in the process. He asked the board to consider having an independent process for naming the panel. The sentiment was echoed by Dr. Anjali Menezes, who sits on the police boards.

George said even if the process was provincially mandated, it’s important to have additional oversight from community members.

“The conversation has to be routed and led by community,” he said.

It is expected that at the centre of future discussions will be the data and the way they are collected. HPS has said it doesn’t know what factors were at play and the data alone may not be conclusive evidence of systemic racism.