Why some people say Peel police diversity and inclusion committee isn’t enough to address anti-Black racism

I have sympathy with having an overall diversity and inclusion committee, with sub-committees for specific issues or communities as needed, to ensure better understanding of the both the commonalities and the differences needed to ensure more effective policies and programs. As well, care needs to be taken to ensure a variety of perspectives is heard in such consultations and discussions, including both activists and pragmatists:

Contrary to the wishes of many residents in Mississauga and Brampton to create an anti-Black racism advisory panel, the Peel Police Services Board (PPSB) has decided to move forward with a diversity and inclusion (D&I) committee instead.

Members voted to move ahead with the general organization, which will have a subcommittee dedicated to the Black community, at the October meeting following calls more than six months ago from local activist David Bosveld and others to create the panel.

In his latest deputation at the same meeting, Bosveld said a specific panel is needed because of “the disparate outcomes, interactions, violence, criminalization, over policing and systemic issues of anti-Black racism” experienced and documented in recent reports and findings from the force.

Board members went back and forth on the pros and cons of a general committee or specific panel, with newest member Martin Medeiros listing one con being other racialized communities may also want their own panel.

“Realistically, we can’t have four or five or six or seven boards; technically, it’s not sound,” he said at the meeting, while adding that choosing what groups get to have their own panels is like “picking winners and losers.”

The original recommendation for the D&I committee said the panel wouldn’t fill any gaps due to anti-racism work done across the region.

In August, the board moved to defer their decision on implementing the specific panel, requesting more information on how the D&I committee would operate and overviews of similar operations at other forces.

Executive director Rob Serpe delivered a report two months later that said the committee would “provide its advice and recommendations to the board,” on issues and policies “relating to system racism, equity, diversity and inclusion as well as issues relating to anti-Black racism.”

But as Dr. Tope Adefarakan, an equity, diversity and inclusion expert, explains, a D&I committee (even with a sub-committee), is not nearly enough to address specific issues of anti-Black racism within the realm of policing.

To understand why, the relationship between police and Black communities needs to be looked at historically.

“If you think of the history of policing, it’s about patrols who catch Africans that were enslaved,” she said.

Add to that the many stereotypes and racist tropes applied to Black individuals involving law enforcement, and this leads to a historical legacy impacting one community.

“Black communities are being seen as inherently criminal. That ideology is deeply embedded in policing in and of itself,” said Adefarakan.

She argues those views are uniquely applied to Black communities, saying “criminality or violence don’t get attached to other communities in the same way.”

This can be seen in countless reports on policing, including a recent study in Peel that showed Black individuals were 3.5 times more likely to be met with force from police than any other race.

“Black people are seen as the most threatening, the most dangerous, the most criminal, hence the over representation,” she said.

The report alone should be enough for members to implement the panel, since it echoes the same message Black residents have been talking about for years, said Adefarakan.

A panel would also be able to discuss solutions or make recommendations directly related to the report and work on other areas of policing that aren’t often looked at such as the impact on Black women, children and LGBTQI+ members.

But perhaps most topical is what Adefarakan says are the “beginnings of a shift” among the general public in understanding Black people’s experiences with police, following the murder of George Floyd.

“People in the Black community have been talking about police brutality for a long time,” which has only recently trickled into the greater population, she said.

Anu Radha Verma, who made a deputation at the August board meeting, said creating a general panel completely misunderstands Bosveld’s multiple asks and the “broader demands” from groups and individuals in Peel.

“The case is already made in the data that we need to actually talk about tackling anti-Black racism. One thing that we know, as a non-Black, south Asian person is, when we can address anti-Black racism within our community in Peel, it benefits everyone, and that should be justification enough,” she said.

She also pointed out there are no Black members on the board, and none of the current members have any skills or expertise on addressing anti-Black racism, gaps the specific panel could fill.

Also at the board meeting was Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, professor at the University of Toronto, who, when asked his opinion on the formation of a general committee, said “when the issues facing Black people are subsumed under diversity, which includes sexual orientation, religion, race and ethnicity, which are different, then those concerns do often get lost.”

Despite these multiple deputations, lengthy discussions and expert opinions, no such panel will be created, with Bosveld saying his request and other concerns from the Black community have been ignored.

“The issues faced by Black communities on policing are very specific and troubling and need to be addressed as such. How that cannot be obvious is beyond me,” he said.

Source: Why some people say Peel police diversity and inclusion committee isn’t enough to address anti-Black racism

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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