Regina Police Association says tweet about defunding wasn't meant as threat to cultural unit
Association says it's concerned about the future of programs like cultural unit should service be defunded
The Regina Police Association (RPA), the union which represents police officers in the Queen City, has come under fire for a tweet some read as a threat to the police service's cultural unit.
The tweet, published 12:06 a.m. Tuesday, asked those who support calls to defund police services to "choose wisely," suggesting the work of union members in the Regina police cultural unit — featured in a Regina Leader-Post article — would be "one of the first to go."
The tweet comes after a petition was started online late last week, calling for the Regina Police Service to be defunded. Calls for defunding or reforming police services around North America have grown since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis.
The tweet was with an online backlash, with many accusing the union of being "tone-deaf" or out of touch with what the defund police movement calls for.
The president of the Regina Police Association says the tweet wasn't intended to be a threat.
"When the tweet went out on that article, [it was] saying 'we're just worried about programs,'" said Casey Ward.
"It wasn't saying that if you don't support police, we're going to get rid of our culture unit. That wasn't what the tweet was meant to be."
Ward said the Twitter account is fully operated by the Regina Police Association, which has an elected communications officer.
Ward, who also heads the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, said he took full responsibility for Tuesday's tweet and said the comments on defunding police and the work done by the police service's cultural unit had nothing to do with each other.
The association is a separate organization from the Regina Police Service itself. When contacted, the police service declined to comment on the association's tweet.
On Wednesday afternoon, the police service's own Twitter account reminded the public that the service and the association are separate bodies.
While <a href="https://twitter.com/QueenCityPolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@QueenCityPolice</a> advocates for our members, please note <a href="https://twitter.com/reginapolice?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@reginapolice</a> is our official account. <br><br>In a June 8th media scrum, Chief Bray addressed, among other things, the question of defunding police in Regina. WATCH for full context: <a href="https://t.co/RdVQ94lRvK">https://t.co/RdVQ94lRvK</a> <a href="https://t.co/YwPYT2Xx35">https://t.co/YwPYT2Xx35</a>—@reginapolice
In a series of tweets Wednesday evening, the union reiterated much of what Ward said, adding an apology from the RPA Board for 'how a previous tweet regarding the "de-funding" of Police was interpreted'.
1/4 The RPA board apologizes for how a previous tweet regarding the “de-funding” of Police was interpreted. Our intention was not meant to be harmful or distasteful.—@QueenCityPolice
Responding to movement's calls
Ward said the union is concerned rhetoric used by the defund police movement is pitting communities against police in the United States.
Ward said that's affecting officers and their relationships with the community here in Regina.
"Policing here in Canada is so different than the U.S., so it's really bugging our officers that everyone's trying to make it an us versus them," the president said.
The defund police movement calls for police budgets to be scaled down, with money redirected to social services as a way to protect civilians.
Ward said the costs of policing — things like investigating child exploitation, forensics associated with homicide investigations, or the amount of time officers spend investigating cases — are rising.
He said amidst growing problems with drugs and firearms in the city, he's also hearing a call for more officers on Regina's streets.
"If you told me we do the policing [with] more help with mental health, absolutely.… If there's more funding for addictions, absolutely.… Do we need the funding for other services? Absolutely," he said.
"We're not really saying take a shift in our budget. It's more like we need additional funds."
Earlier this week, Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray said the police budget cannot be reduced unless more funding from the provincial government is put into social support services, such as those for mental health and addictions.