Police chief acknowledges CPS has anti-racism work to do

At an update to the police commission, the police service said that it would be prioritizing five of 11 initiatives in order to help address public concerns about racism.

'We're seeing our folks on different places on the continuum' regarding anti-racism, Neufeld says

'To try to tell you what exactly the structure is and who's involved for the long term — we don't have that yet,' Neufeld said of the anti-racism work undertaken by CPS. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Work is proceeding on five different initiatives as the Calgary Police Service (CPS) continues to develop its anti-racism strategy, police Chief Mark Neufeld said in an update to the Calgary Police Commission on Tuesday — but acknowledged it has a way to go.

In September, Neufeld announced that organizational changes were coming to CPS as part of an anti-racism action plan.

On Oct. 27, the service said that it would be prioritizing five of 11 initiatives in order to help address public concerns about racism.

They include improving communication with the community; building an anti-racism framework; an independent review of the school resource officer program; implementation of equity, diversity and inclusion tools and practices; and the potential re-allocation of funds.

"What we're basically trying to make sure that we do, at this point, is that we're moving forward together … to be both efficient and inclusive," Neufeld said.

Plan demands transformative culture change, chair says

However, Bonita Croft, who is the chair of the police commission, pressed Neufeld on the service's tangible progress.

Earlier this month, a column written by a CPS constable in 10-4, the police union's magazine, surfaced — and referred to Black Lives Matter as a "police hate group."

"As we all know, this plan calls for and requires a really transformational culture change. But we have really seen from the latest 10-4 magazine article that some members have not embraced this agenda of cultural change," Croft said.  

"I'm wondering what steps that you are taking to engage employees to share the importance of this work."

Neufeld acknowledged that there are differences within the CPS surrounding anti-racism work, and said he is encouraging officers and staff to keep an open mind about fighting racism.

"We've got members of the CPS that are expressing their views, and everybody's got views … we're seeing our folks on different places on the continuum," Neufeld said. 

"We've basically just acknowledged that we just need to start with folks where they are, and our message has just been to employees, to not be defensive about this discussion, and just to be open-minded and curious about the lived experience of everybody."

Activist asks for representation

Adora Nwofor, an anti-Black racism activist in Calgary, stressed the importance of diversity and representation of consultants working with the CPS on anti-racism initiatives during the update.

She also questioned why the members of various boards involved in the action plan are not easily accessible online.

"I'm a Black woman, and I don't often see us at the table, having a voice or having anything that we say be applied when these changes are happening," Nwofor said. 

"I think it's very important to only have BIPOC people at these tables. It feels like white people are very well-represented everywhere within the police force … I think it's very important for BIPOC to be leading in the consultation in any and all of these things that are dealing with anti-racism."

Adora Nwofor is a Calgary-based anti-Black racism activist. (CBC)

Neufeld said CPS does not want to consult by invitation, and admitted it is a challenge to determine who wants to be engaged and consulted on the anti-racism work.

"We want to get to the voices that we wouldn't otherwise hear," Neufeld said. "There's all kinds of individuals and groups reaching out to us, which we think is good. And it's just a matter of trying to manage that, and making sure that we can, I guess, meet expectations."

Ultimately, Neufeld said that CPS was committed to making progress on its initiatives — but would need time to realize them fully.

"What we need, for the next several months, may not be what we need after that. So, to try to tell you what exactly the structure is and who's involved for the long term — we don't have that yet," Neufeld said. 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Scott Dippel and CBC Calgary