Questions

by Adeline Cohen,

Hi there, I was waiting to receive a call to join the voice call. I didn't get it, maybe because of technical difficulties, so I've typed some of my questions here.

On police responding to mental health calls:

Police don’t have the years of training that mental health experts have; receiving training is not the same as receiving a degree. This is an issue, not just because of the risk that there will be violence against a person in crisis, but also because even in a situation where police do everything right, they’re still not able to give the same quality of service and care that a mental health expert would be able to give. An intervention from an expert has the best chance of turning someone’s life around, and if we send police officers instead of experts, we risk depriving vulnerable people of that intervention. We send officers with limited training to respond to mental health calls, instead of having mental health experts with years of education and experience. So my question is this: will the region retask mental health calls to experts who are better-trained to help people in crisis?

That being said, I would like to point out that the same racism that exists within the police force also exists within mental health experts, and that we must also examine institutions outside of the police.



On support for youth in Oshawa:

In my 4 years of going to high school in Oshawa, and my 12 years of attending public school in Durham, I have not once seen the police come into my school to educate me and my classmates on how to avoid being trafficked. In the past few weeks, I’ve asked some of my friends, and nobody else can remember being taught how to defend themselves from human trafficking, or how to recognize the signs of someone being groomed for trafficking. Everything we young people know about preventing ourselves from being trafficked, we learnt it ourselves. We taught each other, or we saw it on the internet and social media, but not in our schools. Will the region commit to taking the initiative and working to the DDSB to make sure that young people are educated on how to protect themselves from human trafficking?


On body cameras:

I’ve heard that DRPS has a body camera study (which has been put on hold because of COVID). I would like to raise a point of caution, that the region should be careful not to follow the example that Toronto set. Toronto did not consider implementing penalties for officers who turned off their body cameras. This is counterintuitive to the purpose of body cameras, which is to promote justice and present the truth, to be an impartial witness. But there can’t be impartiality if the police have the ability to decide what gets recorded. Another major problem is that Toronto was fully prepared to let body cameras be the end of the discussion about police reform when multiple studies from other cities have shown that the influence of body cameras on police behaviour is negligible. In one Australian study, in 2016, the implementation of body cameras correlated with an increase in use of force incidents. They support transparency and accountability - retroactive justice instead of preventing violence. Maybe Durham will be different. Even if they work in Durham, body cameras are an attempt at an easy fix that won’t address the systemic problems within North American police departments. So I ask that the region air on the side of caution when it comes to their body cameras, and that if they do choose to implement body cameras, they be careful to have penalties for officers who turn off their body cameras without good cause.


On Use of Force policies:

I'd like to suggest that the region take a look at 8cantwait.org . It’s a collection of 8 changes that police can make to their use of force policy, that have been found to result in 72% fewer police killings in cities that implemented all 8 policies. This organization is American-based, but the policies are easily applicable to non-American police forces.

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