Trust in Thunder Bay police to be examined through change project
Upcoming public survey will look at how racialized, Indigenous and vulnerable people feel about service
Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., will look at the issue of trust — as opposed to satisfaction — as part of the next phase of their change project, says Leisa Desmoulins, a professor at Lakehead University and a consultant who is working with the force.
Many North American police forces have conducted satisfaction surveys, Desmoulins said, "but trust surveys are much more rare, and they get at deeper issues in terms of relationships between police and racialized people, specifically."
Examining the issue of trust in policing is crucial, said Jackie Dojack, the chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
"How do you create trust? How do you foster trust? I think that's going to be very important for us. People who consider themselves to be vulnerable, and many racialized people, many Indigenous people when it comes to a relationship with police feel vulnerable," said Dojack.
'Change the way we do business'
Acting on the findings of the trust survey is "going to change the way we do business. I really believe that. It's going to help our officers have another perspective," said Dojack.
Senator Murray Sinclair is currently examining the actions and attitudes of the board on behalf of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The investigation was launched because the commission developed "serious concerns" about the state of civilian police oversight and public confidence in the delivery of policing in Thunder Bay, especially in regards to the way the deaths of Indigenous people are investigated.
Systemic racism in the police service is also being investigated by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director.
The change project aims to make the force more diverse and help it build new relationships with a variety of groups in the city, including Indigenous people, through training, recruitment, communication and community policing.
To help the police service achieve those goals, a workforce survey, which was delivered to all 320 employees, has already been completed, said Desmoulins, who provided an update on the Shaping our Future initiative at a meeting of the police services board on Tuesday.
"One of the things I'm most pleased about is that it had representation from people who work across all branches of the service, so civilians, people who work in different branches, people who work as police officers, people in senior management."
From the 171 people who responded to the survey, Desmoulins said the aggregate employee is a male, heterosexual, married constable, between the ages of 45 to 54 years old, who does not identify as either Indigenous or a visible minority.
'See other people who look like them'
Part of the purpose for conducting the internal survey is to learn whether the force reflects the community it serves, said Desmoulins.
"It's important for two reasons," she said. "The first is trust in policing. People who live in the community have trust if they see other people who look like them in the police service and they feel that that is representative of them. And it's also important for recruitment."
Desmoulins said the community working group, which is assisting police on the change project, will hold its inaugural meeting on April 4.
The members of that group will be helping the service find innovative new ways to recruit staff and improve diversity training.
You can hear more about the trust survey and the importance of diversity in the Thunder Bay police service here.