Karen Greenwood-Graham is worried because her advocacy group is growing.
She runs Affected Families of Police Homicide (AFPH), a group of families who are lobbying for change in the way police officers are trained to deal with mental illness and use of force in Ontario.
“If our group is growing, that’s a problem,” Greenwood-Graham told CBC Hamilton. AFPH’s members include Steve Mesic’s family — the Hamilton man who was shot and killed by police earlier this year. Ten Ontario families who have had loved ones shot by police make up the group so far.
'We’re not police haters.'- Karen Greenwood-Graham, Affected Families of Police Homicide
Last week, the group met with Tony Loparco, the new director of the provincial special investigations unit. This came after meetings with Andre Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman. Next on the group’s list is setting up meetings with the attorney general and the premier, which they hope will happen next year.
Tops on the group’s list of requests for the government: more trauma support for the families of people who end up shot in altercations with police. Greenwood-Graham says that after her son Trevor was shot by police in Kitchener back in 2007, support was virtually non-existent. “We need trauma support just like police do,” she said.
The way police officers deal with people who have mental health issues and just how force is used needs to be reexamined from the top down, she says. Norm Dorr, the father of Mesic’s fiancée Sharon, echoed that statement.
“There were so many options that could’ve saved Steve’s life,” Dorr said. “Instead, they shot him.”
New SIU boss was 'defensive' and 'disappointing,' group says
Dorr was there for last week’s meeting with Loparco, where the group was lobbying for increased SIU interviews of eyewitnesses who aren’t police officers after shootings as well as increased trauma support for families.
Dorr told CBC Hamilton he left the meeting feeling like the group’s requests and suggestions weren’t heeded.
“It was like talking to a robot,” he said. “Me and him definitely weren’t buddies.”
Greenwood-Graham was also less than enthused with Loparco after the meeting. “It seemed to me that Tony was prepared for a bit of a battle,” she said. “He was very defensive. It was a bit disappointing.”
The SIU would not grant any interview requests with Loparco.
“SIU Director Tony Loparco agreed to meet with several families as they had expressed some concerns. He was interested in finding out what those concerns were and what improvements the SIU could make,” said SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon in an email.
“The meeting was productive. However, we will not be going into any specifics with respect to what was discussed.”
Greenwood-Graham says she wants the public to understand that her group isn’t lobbying the SIU and the government out of anger.
“We’re not police haters. A lot of us have come through that,” she said.
“But we do have a rage to change things for the culture of Ontario.”