'Shaping our Future': Thunder Bay police reach out to community for help on change initiative

The Thunder Bay Police Service is looking for a cross-section of people from the northwestern Ontario city to be part of the "Shaping Our Future'' working group, which is the next phase in the department's change initiative

Working group wants people interested in helping police with diversity training, recruitment, communication

Sylvie Hauth, acting police chief in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the force needs the perspective of a diversity of voices as it proceeds with its change initiative. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

The Thunder Bay Police Service is looking for a cross-section of people from the northwestern Ontario city to be part of the "Shaping Our Future'' working group, which is the next phase in the department's change initiative.

People will assist the service with diversity training, recruitment, communications and community policing.

"It's very important that we have the voice of the community at the table" to contrast with the police perspective, said Sylvie Hauth, the acting police chief in Thunder Bay.

"There's different expertise, different knowledge and different experiences that they can speak to that will help shape what the change looks like and I think that voice is important," she said.

Diversity in perspective, experience

The working group is expected to be made up of about seven people, including representation from both the police force and the general public.

"From internal and external, we're looking for a diverse range," said Hauth. "We're looking obviously for different genders, races, ethnicities and people that have some experience, some knowledge and some interest in the four areas we're looking at," she said.

Initiative hopes to set right relationships

The purpose of the change initiative is "re-righting" relations inside and outside the police service, particularly with the Indigenous community, a written release from the police service explained.

It also responds to calls of systemic discrimination within the service through four components:

  • restructuring the Aboriginal Liaison Unit
  • invigorating recruitment to attract Indigenous and other under-represented groups to the police service
  • creating ongoing training opportunities for service staff by offering diversity and culturally significant courses to enhance employees' knowledge and abilities to interact with all community members over the course of their careers
  • enhancing the service's internal and external communications to convey organization changes and foster accountability through evaluations

'Major undertaking' but not 'short-term' 

In December 2017, the Thunder Bay Police Services Board unanimously approved a resolution supporting the change initiative and its goals.

It's "a major undertaking not meant to be treated as a short-term project," the release stated.

More information and an application to participate in the working group is available at thunderbaypolice.ca/change.

Volunteers must commit to being available to meet for at least one year, from March 1, 2018 through March 1, 2019, although Hauth said meetings may begin as early as February.