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N.W.T. RCMP admits racism is in the force

Police held a press conference on Friday to address the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Yellowknife earlier this week. Chief Supt. Jamie Zettler said racism does slip into the force at times.

Commanding officer made the comments at a press conference in Yellowknife Friday

People taking a knee during the gathering on Tuesday, outside of Yellowknife's RCMP detachment, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Police held a press conference to address the demonstration on Friday. (Walter Strong/ CBC )

N.W.T.'s RCMP admits racism slips into the force at times.

Chief Supt. Jamie Zettler, the commanding officer of Northwest Territories RCMP, made the comment at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"If we have racism in our society, then there's obviously going to be some that comes into our organization," he said.

Police held a press conference on Friday to address the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Yellowknife earlier this week.

The response from Zettler comes in the wake of people across Canada and around the world who have been speaking out against systemic racism in policing, especially toward Black and Indigenous populations. Stories of police violence in Nunavut, Alberta, and New Brunswick have also intensified the debate.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the Yellowknife RCMP detachment on Tuesday, with some people chanting "no justice, no peace" and vehicles honked their horns. Some people also held signs demanding the police be defunded.

Zettler said sometimes "unconscious biases" come into play in policing.

"We have lots of positive interactions with multiple diverse communities," he said. "But there is going to be opportunities that people feel they have been mistreated. Those are the ones we need to understand and have another lens on."

N.W.T.'s commanding officer Chief Supt. Jamie Zettler, right, photographed next to then-chief Bill Erasmus at the Dene Nation leadership meeting in 2018. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

He added that no matter how many incidents there are, "and how many cameras and how many different lenses" there are, they don't necessarily "capture what the people's perspectives are." 

"I think this is where a lot of the [systemic] racism that is talked about these days is brought forward — people have different perceptions based on their life experiences."

Man alleges he was beat up by RCMP

Benjamin Manuel, a man who alleges he was beat up by police on Wednesday behind a convenience store, came to protest outside the Yellowknife RCMP detachment before the news conference began Friday, along with a group of supporters.

Missed the press conference? Watch it here:

The claim has not been confirmed by police.

Zettler said the allegation came to the RCMP's attention on Thursday night via a Facebook post. He said he would not comment further on the case, other than to say police have reached out to the man and are looking into the case.

"Sometimes social media doesn't have all the facts," Zettler said. He said there is "without a doubt" areas of improvement for the RCMP.

Michael Fatt is with Yellowknife's Common Ground's Clean Sweep project — an employment program for people who are homeless. Fatt was among the supporters outside the detachment. 

Fatt said he was surprised by the incident brought forward by Manuel.

"That's just unnecessary," he said, regarding the alleged use of force by police.

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