Ottawa police relaunch community connection committee

Ottawa police are retooling a group meant to connect them to diverse communities, hoping to forge better connections.

New Community Equity Council recruiting people who reflect city's diversity

Deputy police Chief Steve Bell and Ketcia Peters, who co-chair the new group, said they are looking forward to restarting the initiative. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC)

Ottawa police are retooling a group meant to connect them to diverse communities, hoping to forge better connections.

Last year, the Community Police Action Committee decided to disband and restructure.

The committee had been a forum for the police to connect with communities for decades, but members felt there was a need for change.

The new group called the Ottawa Police Community Equity Council is recruiting new members hoping to better reflect the city.

Deputy police Chief Steve Bell, who co-chairs the new council, said on CBC's All In A Day Monday they heard from community members who felt it wasn't working.

"What we heard from the community was that it wasn't broad enough. It wasn't actually representing the needs of the community," he said.

Problems vs. solutions 

Bell said the old committee became a place to bring problems and he would like it to be a place that comes up with new solutions.

Ketcia Peters, who co-chairs the new group, said she actually sees that as one of its strengths. 

"We needed more than that, but to me that was an actual step forward, because in previous years the community didn't even know there was a council where they could bring problems forward," she said.

One of the issues the old group dealt with was when police officers began wearing wristbands in support of a fellow officer Const. Daniel Montsion, who has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Abdirahman Abdi.

Peters said having the two sides come together and share perspectives helped. 

She said she hopes the new council will be more collaborative.

"I found that we were focusing a lot on our differences as community members rather than combining our forces together," she said. 

Peters said they hope new recruits have good connections to their communities and are subject matter experts as well. 

Bell said he hopes people will come forward to help.

"I want to see people who represent their communities or have the ear of their communities, so they can come forward and be problem solvers with us," he said.

More information about how to apply to be on the council is available on the Ottawa Police website.