'Who do you call?' CBC Radio's Uncensored explores the need for police

This week’s episode of Uncensored takes listeners through a discussion on defunding police services. It's a discussion host Alexa Joy acknowledges may cause discomfort, but that's OK, she says.

Host Alexa Joy and guests say it's time to talk about defunding police services

'Some people who read this ... will feel discomfort and that's OK,' says Alexa Joy. 'What's not OK is ignoring the communities that are vulnerable.' (Submitted by Alexa Joy)

This week's episode of Uncensored walks listeners through the discussion of defunding the police. Some people who either read this web story or listen to the show might feel some discomfort — and that's OK.

What's not OK is ignoring the communities that are vulnerable in the presence of police.

This week's episode, titled Who Do You Call? , eases listeners into a political issue that reminds us all to think about the future of our communities, to reimagine a society without overwhelming policing — and to ask themselves whom the police are really trying to serve and protect (and who they aren't). 

A 15-minute dialogue does not encompass the history around this oppressive state we know as Canada, but it scratches the surface on why this conversation is so integral in a time where we are all witnessing the instability of our institutions. 

Scholar, poet and tireless activist El Jones — a former Winnipegger — with Winnipeg-based community advocate Mandela Kuet provided a strong base and outlined steps that need to be taken, in trying to understand the idea of defunding.

Community advocate Mandela Kuet: “There’s overpolicing when it comes to newcomers, youth and families." (Submitted by Mandela Kuet)

"Black and Indigenous people are excluded from this idea of public safety," said Jones.

It plays into a larger conversation on the role police are alleged "to serve and protect." Under this declaration it's Black people who are vulnerable, mistreated and targeted under the police state. 

'1-800-Stop-Calling-Cops-on-Black-People' would be an effective help line.- Alexa Joy

We must also consider the concept of safety. We've all seen videos of so-called "Karens" carelessly putting Black people's lives in danger through senseless calls, to complain about innocent people — for simply existing while being Black.

"1-800-Stop-Calling-Cops-on-Black-People" would be an effective help line — addressing this internal fragility white people have when they see Black people in the same places they also exist in. 

In this attempt to address police brutality and overpolicing in Black, Indigenous, newcomer and vulnerable communities, more than 90 Manitoba organizations developed an action plan for police accountability and distribution of resources.

Mandela Kuet, who sits on this committee, also gave insightful perspectives on the overwhelming presence of police within inner city communities.

The Winnipeg Police Board has .... zero accountability when it comes to lives lost at the hands of police.- Mandela Kuet

"There's overpolicing when it comes to newcomers, youth and families" Kuet says. "The Winnipeg Police Board has no oversight or zero accountability when it comes to lives lost at the hands of police."

Without monitoring or accountability, violence and police brutality will continue to target Black communities. Without active conversations on breaking down myths around policing, who is bad and good, who obeys the rules, who feels safe and unsafe — how we can think about better models to help people without enforcing state authority?

'Black and Indigenous people are excluded from this idea of public safety,' says former Winnipegger El Jones. (Submitted by El Jones)

"Obstacles to police reform are the police themselves," says Jones, who calls attention to the denial of systemic racism within the policing system. For example, the Winnipeg Police Service mission states:

"We believe:

  • The safety and security of people, property and the community are a critical public interest.
  • In the rights of individuals and bias-free policing."

But there are too many police encounters and stories of anti-Black violence where we have yet to see this "bias-free policing."

NDP MLA Uzoma Asagwara speaks at the Justice 4 Black Lives rally in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building on June 5, 2020. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Even with a former first — a Black chief of police in Manitoba — and a current Black chair of the police board, Black people propelled into the police system do not solve systemic anti-Blackness either.

In order to imagine a discrimination-free society, there's an incredible amount of work that needs to be done, not just at a systemic level but individually. 

If we continue to think that the police will solve our problems, I think it's safe to say the problem of police brutality will never stop.

We're in a time that cannot accommodate silence while Black people are being killed. If we want conditions to get better, we all have to do something about it. 

CBC's Uncensored — a show airing on Information Radio, Thursdays at 7:35 a.m. CT — explores the realities facing Black communities in Canada, including Manitoba.  

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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.


Alexa Joy is a researcher, journalist and graduate student at The New School for Social Research.