Thunder Bay Police union calls for more funding, manpower after critical reports
Police association calls for city, province, Ottawa to address 'inadequate funding policies'
The union representing Thunder Bay police officers is calling on the city as well as senior levels of government to "address the inadequate funding policies" regarding the local police service after two highly critical reports released last week.
The probes, by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director, as well as the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, slammed the local force and the police services board — the civilians that are supposed to oversee police — for the prevalence of systemic racism against Indigenous people.
"Statistically Thunder Bay continues to be one of the top ranked cities in the nation for violent crime and homicides year after year," Thunder Bay Police Association (TBPA) president, Greg Stephenson stated in a written release on Dec. 16.
"Still there continues to be inadequate support from all levels of government to address the high rates of addiction, mental health issues ... and the lack of support for the Indigenous community in our city."
He said the association is calling on the City of Thunder Bay, as well as Thunder Bay-area MPs Patty Hajdu and Don Rusnak and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford — all of whom are members of currently-sitting senior levels of government — to address the current funding policy.
In its submissions to the two investigations, the police service said it is one of the lowest-funded police services in the province. The police review director's report cited the level of staffing in the criminal investigations branch as a "major issue that must be urgently addressed."
Police have said the force's budget makes up just under eight per-cent of the city's total budget.
In his statement, Stephenson said the union is taking the reports from OIPRD director Gerry McNeilly and Sen. Murray Sinclair "very seriously," but it feels they do "not highlight the hard work of the TBPA members that is done on a daily basis," nor do they recognize the "high solve rate for violent crimes in the city."
"Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are not perfect," Stephenson stated. "We accept the responsibility of those mistakes. What we do not accept is the repeated accusations that our members are racist."
The police association also called on the Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dirk Hyer, to release the findings of the review done by York Regional Police Service into the 2017 deaths of Josiah Begg and Tammy Keeash, saying that the coroner's office has "refused" to release them.
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A spokesperson for the chief coroner's office said that's not possible due to privacy provisions in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Stephenson said the members of the local police association are calling on Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and all other Indigenous leaders "to work with the police, and the City of Thunder Bay to address the issues raised in these reports."