Community council backs police 'transformation,' but seeks clarity
'Defunding' shouldn't come at cost of community policing, Community Equity Council co-chair says
The co-chair of a community-based consultative committee that provides advice to the Ottawa Police Service says it wants to see a "transformation" to end systemic racism within the force's ranks, but first wants input from the community on how that would work.
Sahada Alolo, co-chair of the Community Equity Council and an executive member of the African-Canadian Association of Ottawa, said the discussion revved up in the wake of the No Peace Until Justice March in Ottawa earlier this month.
Organizers of the march expressed support for the concept of defunding police, which they defined as moving funding for the police department to groups that empower the Black community.
However, Alolo said people have been using the term to describe an array of options for policing and the delivery of social programs.
"It is a bandwagon, and everybody is sort of getting on board. However, the meaning of the phrase differs," Alolo said.
More work needs to be done
Alolo said the Community Equity Council met with Ottawa police representatives Tuesday and, while she found them receptive to exploring options, she said there needs to be more work on defining the change people want.
Alolo has previously welcomed news that the police were reinstating their hate crime unit, and has advocated for the return of community policing to build trust and relationships between police and marginalized communities. She said she doesn't want to take resources away from that kind of work.
"We want community policing. Right now we have community policing happening in different areas, [but] we don't have it citywide. We're looking for it to expand and be in all of the communities that need it. We don't have those resources yet," Alolo said.
Getting youth involved
Alolo said the Community Equity Council wants to facilitate a discussion, particularly among young people, to identify proposals that can be taken to police and eventually implemented.
"We definitely want transformation. If defunding the police means extreme transformation, where we get to the root of the culture that allows systemic racism to thrive in the police, then I'm all for it."
She pointed out the discussion comes as the Ottawa Police Service Board begins work on its next strategic plan for the police service.
Ottawa police said no one was available for an interview Wednesday.
Chief Peter Sloly has told CBC Radio's The Current that he's open to a discussion about defunding, but not if changes are simply made "out of retribution."