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The Gazette - Vol. 74, No. 3, 2012 - Open Dialogue -
Building trust in our diverse communities

From tolerance to understanding

Policing Canada's diverse communities

By Mallory Procunier

Large police funeral procession Members of the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies say a solemn farewell to Cst. Robin Cameron at her funeral.
Credit: Rod Andrews, Saskatchewan Valley News

For generations, Canadians have struggled to form a national identity. But it’s not for a lack of cultural, ethnic or linguistic distinctiveness.

In its cultural mosaic of 34 million people, Canada represents cultural diversity like no other country in the world. So for its national police force, it can be a challenge to work with new Canadians who may not know the role of police or with some deeply rooted Aboriginal peoples who have had a turbulent past with law enforcement.

But there’s also an opportunity to learn about the cultures that make up the country’s population and a lesson in compassion that comes from an understanding of differences.

Canada’s multicultural mecca

The City of Surrey, B.C., one of the country’s most multicultural municipalities, provides an opportunity for RCMP to learn about cultural differences.

In this suburb of Vancouver, which almost 460,000 people call home, visible minorities form 46 per cent of the population. Sixty per cent of them are immigrants from South Asia, but a medley of other ethnicities also make up the community.

Surrey embraces its diversity and structures its policing methods around the city’s layout. The Surrey RCMP detachment’s jurisdiction is sectioned into five districts that are designated along cultural and socio-economic lines.

District One comprises the downtown district and the “The Strip” — a three-block radius that’s notorious for homelessness and drug abuse and dotted with methadone clinics, sex shops and a couple of bottle deposit stores.

Driving south, different ethnic communities transition into each other. A well-kept Punjabi community unfolds from the dilapidated downtown core. Mosques, temples and community centres are sandwiched between the showy houses that belong to the South Asian population and the larger homes that are crammed with several Chinese families who choose to live together.

With all these different cultures packed into one city, it can be difficult for newly transferred members to adjust to the community they police. But Surrey detachment is prepared to ease the transition.

A way in to the community

Rosy Takhar is Surrey’s crime prevention and community services manager, but is known as the diversity co-ordinator around the detachment. It’s a position that’s suited perfectly to the cultural anthropologist who previously spent more than a decade working with new immigrants. Takhar understands the challenges that new immigrants face in Canada and how they may not realize the role that police play in a peaceful country.

“We have a lot of people who come from countries where police work under a bribery system and are not to be trusted so many people here have a fear of calling the police, especially those who are not well off socio-economically in the countries they come from,” Takhar says.

Part of Takhar’s job is to hold presentations every time new recruits or transfers come to Surrey detachment. She teaches them how to be a resource in the community and what to do when they face road blocks like language barriers.

“In terms of training, I look at it from our Surrey lens — what’s affecting our members and what would they benefit from knowing,” Takhar says.

Takhar recalls one presentation where a member was having trouble with community members who meant to call India but who were accidentally dialing 911. The member would still be required to respond to the hang-up 911 call, but the callers didn’t want to let the police officer in to their homes. Takhar worked with the member to design info cards with Punjabi on one side and English on the other to inform clients why the police are at their door and how to avoid the situation in the future.

“You need to educate them because the police officer who is standing there saying he has to go through the house is put in an awkward position when there’s a language barrier,” Takhar says.

Takhar also teaches members about the different ethnicities that make up Surrey’s population. She goes over the differences between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims and some religious or societal customs that may impact police work.

She talks about Malaysian immigrants who will get out of the car when they’re pulled over by police because that’s the societal norm they’re used to in parts of Southeast Asia. She also forewarns members of some Middle Eastern cultures who can be afraid to phone the police when they witness a crime because they think they’ll be in trouble.

With Takhar’s help, Surrey is well-equipped to respond to the diverse community it serves — not only through her work with members, but with the public as well. Takhar holds regular community talks with service providers who work with new immigrants to teach them when and how to get the police involved.

She also works with crime prevention co-ordinators in each of Surrey’s five districts who give bi-annual presentations to ESL (English as a second language) students about the role of the police as a resource in the community.

 “It’s hard to articulate how reliant we are on the inroads that we can build into the community with Rosy’s help,” says Insp. Garry Begg, Assistant Operations Officer for Surrey detachment. “There’s no time to be modest in our business.”

An eye on the future

While Takhar is reaching out to new immigrants, Cpl. Rafael Alvarez is looking out for their children. Alvarez heads Surrey’s Youth Section as well as countless programs aimed at keeping youth out of gangs and on track for the future.

Alvarez doesn’t look like a police officer. The tattoos up his arm, combined with his positive and encouraging attitude, affirms that he’s perfectly suited for his position.

He runs the Surrey Wraparound Program, which targets at-risk youth and essentially “wraps” RCMP and community-led services around them to reinforce a positive lifestyle and more self-worth. The program pairs them with jobs in the community and makes sure they don’t have negative influences at home. It also exposes them to the realities of what can happen to a kid who chooses a life of crime.

Alvarez beams when he talks about the successes of the Wraparound program. But he admits that sometimes the cultural barrier is hard to overcome. So when he found an Arabic-speaking member in the area, he immediately seconded him to help bridge the communication gap between police and immigrant families.

Even though there are more than 600 members at the Surrey detachment, both Alvarez and Takhar admit it’s sometimes difficult to find these types of resources. But they’re solving that problem for the future.

Takhar sometimes acts as a recruiter of sorts for Surrey detachment. Recently, she joined a few members at a basketball tournament at an elementary school in one of the districts. In that group was a South Asian female member, who some young South Asian female students were shocked to see.

“There were so many little kids at that elementary school who didn’t know that there was ever a chance that a young Punjabi girl could be a police officer,” Takhar says.

It’s the old-world thinking that keeps these children out of a law enforcement career, Takhar says. Parents see what happens to police in their home countries and don’t want their children to be exposed to that type of work. But when she puts on her recruiter hat, Takhar tries to show them that a career in the RCMP couldn’t be more different.

“You’re not going to get a diverse work force if you don’t actively change people’s perceptions,” Takhar says. “If new immigrant parents feel that policing is dangerous, they’re not going to send their only son into policing.”

Similar approach

Surrey’s approach to policing multiculturalism is to educate its members and encourage them to understand the problems within the communities they police.

So it should be easy for Saskatchewan-native Cpl. Con Lerat, an Aboriginal member at the Rosthern, S.K. detachment, to empathize with the issues that the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations members face. But he actually finds it quite difficult.

“Our family was never into heavy drinking and they never got into trouble so seeing that other end of things was hard,” Lerat says. “I guess you could say it hurt me a bit to see that part of the reserve.”

It was also an adjustment for Halifax-born Cst. Abriel Armitage when she found out her first posting was to a small town in Saskatchewan with a large First Nations population. She wasn’t sure what sort of policing the community expected.

But she quickly learned that in Rosthern, it’s not so much about addressing each individual culture as it is treating everyone equally.

“Sometimes, members on Beardy’s think, ‘oh there’s a white cop coming into our area, get off our reserve, you don’t belong here,’ but I told them I won’t treat them any differently than I would anybody else,” Armitage says.

In the small community of around 1,300 people, crime prevention and law enforcement aren’t solely the responsibility of the RCMP.  And for the few members at the Rosthern detachment, having support on the First Nations reserve to curb the problems before they begin is extremely important.

Justice for the community

On the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations reserve, a small detachment stands merely feet from the first house on the street. Two members are posted there, but they rely on support from Rosthern to keep an eye on the population.

Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations once had an unstable relationship with the RCMP, but all that changed after Cst. Robin Cameron was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute on July 15, 2011.

Her funeral was immense. More than 3,000 people attended the ceremony, including dignitaries, law enforcement officers from Canada and the United States as well as a few of Cameron’s relatives from the Canadian Armed Forces and the United States Marine Corps.

Doug Gamble, the Community Justice Officer as well as Cameron’s uncle, says the overwhelming police presence at the funeral served to show members of the reserve that police are respected individuals who do courageous and dangerous work to protect the community.

“I defend the RCMP when people make comments about them because I know what their role is,” Gamble says. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to them because my niece…well I saw the bullet in her forehead and I remember that and I never want to see that again.”

Gamble works with the reserve’s Justice Department to prepare youth for court dates and let them know what to expect from the justice system. He’s a trusted resource in the community, a firm believer in restorative justice and a comfort to first-time offenders.

“Some of them are very afraid of the court and of the RCMP, but they made their choices and they need someone to talk to, to prepare them,” Gamble says.

But his job isn’t all reactionary. He regularly holds workshops to teach kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and gangs, and the consequences of becoming a bully in their community. He’ll huddle kids in a gymnasium for frank talks, recruit elders to speak to youth at wake services when someone’s been a victim of a crime and even send a local service worker out to the penitentiary to speak to youth who have already made the choice to offend.

“We bring those resource networks right to them so there’s enough education for them to respond to in a positive way,” Gamble says.

Gamble wants to maintain harmony in his community. And by teaching youth to respect authority and to find something to occupy their time besides drugs and alcohol, he’s truly made an example out of the Beardy’s and Okemasis youth. 

“When police officers come into a First Nation community, some of the youth don’t know how to show respect to a police officer, but here they do,” Lerat says. “They’ll say hi to you, shake your hand and it’s really good to see.”

Walking the block

Par Mallory Procunier

“The Strip” is notorious in Surrey for being a tough neighbourhood. But for Sgt. Drew Grainger, it was a place he liked to visit often as a member of Surrey’s Foot Beat patrol team.

Even now, as Surrey’s media relations officer, Grainger is still on friendly terms with the homeless. He spent years there in uniform and on foot with the team, walking through what addicts along the Strip call “Surrey’s Downtown Eastside” and checking up on those who call it home.

As Grainger drives down the street, a bedraggled middle-aged man recognizes him instantly.

“This guy is good, I’ll never forget it,” he said, as his friend stood silently beside him, bobbing his head and smiling. “He’s one of the good ones.”

The relationship between the drug addicted and police in this three-block radius has not always been friendly. When Grainger first started with the Foot Team, the RCMP weren’t welcome on the Strip. Arrests, violent takedowns and force were the means of dealing with these people.

But Grainger’s approach of casual conversations has left a lasting impression.

Lives on the line

RCMP helps encourage youth to Embrace Life

By Sigrid Forberg

In an area of the country characterized by its isolation and lengthy periods of darkness, many residents of Nunavut experience an emotional turmoil that reflects the nature of the land.

The suicide rate in Canada’s youngest territory has been an issue for decades. But in 2011, with  a population of just 33,000, Nunvaut had 33 suicides — a number C/Supt. Steve McVarnock, the RCMP’s commanding officer in Nunavut, says would create outrage in any small southern community.

“Suicide has impacted everyone up here in some way, shape or form,” says McVarnock. “This has been going on for decades and the numbers are just getting higher as the population’s getting younger and more conflicted.”

So several organizations, including the RCMP, the Nunavut government and the Embrace Life Council (ELC), are opening up a dialogue about suicide, encouraging people to seek help for themselves, friends and family members.

Partners in prevention

The ELC, a suicide prevention initiative in Nunavut, was established in 2003 as a non-profit charitable organization with a mandate to contribute to the mental, emotional and physical and community wellness of Nunavut through education, research and training.

Cst. Angelique Dignard represents the RCMP on the ELC board. Taking over for McVarnock a year and a half ago, Dignard has witnessed a lot of change in the recent months.

Having been posted to Nunavut for nearly five years now, Dignard has a fair bit of experience and knowledge on the topic of suicide in the North.

She says the RCMP is in a unique position to help because not only are they present in all 25 communities, but they respond to almost every call of attempted or completed suicide and suicide ideation.

“It’s important for the RCMP to be involved because we deal with this every day,” says Dignard. “Our goal is to have healthy homes and healthy communities, which encompasses so many different aspects — including suicide prevention.”

Lost generation

McVarnock says many of the members who work in the division are parents themselves or have younger siblings and find it hard to fathom the hopelessness that leads young people to the finality of suicide.

The majority of those who take their own lives are young men under 25. Last year, one of the victims was 12 years old and another 13.

While there is training and support for members when dealing with the topic of suicide, the senseless tragedy of losing the younger generation has spurred many members like McVarnock and Dignard to try to understand and combat the presence of suicide in Nunvaut.

Jenny Tierney, the executive director of the ELC, says when she first arrived in Nunavut, it was an eye-opening experience. She adds suicide in the Inuit communities is a complex issue. Factors range from high incidents of child sexual abuse to the impact of colonization.

 “No child should have to go through what a lot of the youth here are experiencing, they should be able to enjoy their childhoods,” says Tierney. “So that’s part of what we’re trying to do, which is to raise awareness and provide supports within the community so that children can live the lives of children.”

Focusing on the future

Both the RCMP and ELC recognize that their initiatives will take time. But in targeting the issue itself as well as the root causes, hopefully they will be reducing the numbers of youth who not just commit but also consider suicide.

Proactive activities like the Aboriginal Shield and the Youth Academy as well as community events get youth out and active with their peers and community leaders, building connections and self-esteem.

And more than that, it’s about getting people to talk about the issue, to express their emotions and deal with them in a healthier manner by leaning on friends, family and even the RCMP. With this purpose in mind, the ELC recently released two commercials.

Airing on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network and in health centres in five major communities, the commercials — in Inuktitut with English subtitles — encourage open and honest discussion on the subject of suicide.

Both the RCMP and ELC hope that through their efforts, youth will see there is light after the darkness.

“We just want them to know that there is this big world out there and it’s not just hopeless,” says Tierney. “If you feel like you don’t fit in, if you feel like there aren’t any opportunities for you… there’s still so much more out there beyond that.”

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Compassion and conversation

Integrated team reaches out to mentally ill

By Sigrid Forberg 

For many police officers, the concepts of criminal and victim are thought of in black and white terms. But there are a growing number that understand it can be more of a grey matter.

When dealing with individuals with mental illness in crisis, empathy, education and understanding are key in ensuring a safe resolution. And several agencies in British Columbia have responded to this growing need by getting involved in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).

The CIT program is a community-based initiative that promotes partnerships between mental health agencies and emergency services. Chilliwack RCMP and Fraser Health have combined forces, partnering an RCMP constable and a mental health liaison to respond to these complicated crisis situations.

“Resources are always a bit of an issue for both agencies,” says Andy Libbiter, the interim executive director of Mental Health and Substance Use services with Fraser Health. “Collaborating really improves each agency’s understanding of each other’s roles and services so that we’re better able to respond to people at the street level.”

Sharing services

Cst. Valerie Conroy is the social chronic co-ordinator for the Chilliwack RCMP. She is partnered with Denise Armstrong, the mental health liaison from Fraser Health.

In their time together, Conroy and Armstrong compile a list of individuals in the community who meet the social chronic criteria — which includes a set number of negative interactions with police — through their own information and referrals from other members.

The list keeps track of the individuals they need to check in on occasionally to ensure they’re taken care of and have access to any assistance resources they might need.

It’s been an eye-opening experience for Conroy, but she says she’s learned a lot.

“Our goal is to work towards keeping police, clients with mental illness and the public safe,” says Conroy. “If the situation allows us to take the time and show the person we’re dealing with that we are there to keep them safe too, it can work toward de-escalation.”

From the Fraser Health perspective, enabling learning is crucial. And it includes everything from learning the difference between arresting and apprehending under the Mental Health Act for officers out in the field, to instructing receptionists how to properly manage crises that happen at the front desk or over the phone.

“This has been really great for Chilliwack,” says Armstrong. “I think any kind of positive relationship between the police and mental health employees benefits the community.”

And it’s not just the community that benefits — going in prepared and knowledgeable also helps officers protect themselves and keep in control of the situation.

The CIT program was originally developed in Memphis, Tennessee nearly 25 years ago. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in that time, the number of officers injured during “mental disturbance” calls has dropped 80 per cent. 

Similar programs have been put into use all across the United States and in several Canadian police forces like the Burnaby and Beaumont RCMP detachments, the York Regional Police and the Edmonton Police Service.

Specific skills

But the job requires a certain kind of officer. Conroy was chosen for the position because her personality was suited for the demands of the job. A survey in B.C. revealed that 40 per cent of people with mental illness have been arrested at some point in their lifetime.

The survey also found that community members exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness are more likely to have negative attitudes towards police — something officers have to keep in mind going into these situations.

“I’m interested in people,” says Conroy. “I recognize that people with a mental illness can struggle at times. Understanding mental illness can lead to more positive interactions and outcomes in times of crisis.”

It’s a lack of understanding that can sometimes lead to unnecessary escalations and even in some cases, tragedy.

Conroy refers to a case where she and Armstrong responded to a call with other RCMP members. Armstrong and Conroy understood that the apprehension was likely to take a while. An hour and a half of calming conversation later, the officers were able to apprehend the individual safely and without incident even though he was opposed to going to the hospital.

“I did want to be a police officer to help people,” says Conroy. “We are there to enforce the law but it’s the way you do it that can make a difference.”

Panel Discussion

What do ethnic, cultural and aboriginal groups most want from police?

The Panelists
  • Cpl. Dave Ogungbemi, RCMP cultural diversity liaison officer, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services, Manitoba
  • Emad Aziz, RCMP Culteral diversity committee representative from the Muslim community in Halifax, N.S.
  • Nona R. German, MS, RSW, community social worker and member of the Edmonton Police Service Aboriginal liaison committee
  • Rodney McLeod, First Nations student, University of Alberta

RCMP officer cutting meat with Aboriginal community member
Meeting people in an informal setting can go a long way to building relationships.
Photo: Cst. Kirk Hughes

Cpl. Dave Ogungbemi

Ethnic and cultural groups mostly want to feel secure first. They want their voices to be heard and they want to understand and have a good working relationship with police, ideally through continuous interaction with them. They’d like to have a contact or resource person within the police environment, especially one who can relate to them and understand their issues, culture and what they’re going through. 

As police, we need to be patient, flexible and really listen to their concerns and what they have to say. These groups want police to educate themselves about their culture. To build trust and good rapport is a slow process depending on a particular ethnic community. I’ve found that once the initial bridge is built or crossed, the community will know that the police member is genuine, and this will build trust. 

They want police to be very candid with them and not promise something they can’t deliver. They know we have a job to do because we are a police officer first. However, we need to educate them that we are bound by the law to enforce it and arrest if we have to. 

Communication must be two-way communication. Cultural and ethnic groups want to assist and be engaged in some of what we do. They believe in the adage: "It takes a whole community to raise a child" and that police can’t do it alone. 
In my experience, visibility is also crucial. When police officers participate in various cultural events, it goes a long way to developing that relationship. It allows interactions between police and the communities so they can get to know each other one-on-one. This is particularly true when we partake in their food.  Meeting people in an informal setting can go a long way to building relationships rather than the usual meetings or appointments. Impromptu visits by police officers are also welcome. 

As police officers, time isn’t always on our side for participating in community outreach events, so having a dedicated flexible member for this is one solution. As communities often hold their events on weekends or evenings, this isn’t always ideal for officers on shift work. However, people notice when we make the “sacrifice” to adjust our schedules or be away from our family to attend their activities. 

Ethnic and cultural communities want us to be involved with their youth to act as role models or mentors. By participating in youth sports, gang awareness education, recruiting and law presentations, police can inspire these youth to consider policing as a viable career choice.  These groups want to reflect and represent the face of Canada and have a sense of belonging. 

In order to prevent their kids from being recruited into gangs, ethnic and cultural communities want information on parenting and gang issues, such as what gang-related behaviours to watch out for in their children. The interesting thing is that young people want many of the same things, especially police-friendly interactions.

To be successful, positive interactions with police and ethnic communities must be ongoing, regardless of the bumps or obstacles along the way.

Emad Aziz

The immigrant population is the fastest growing demographic in Canada and, unfortunately, many of these new Canadians come from countries with oppressive or ineffective police forces. Hence, RCMP officers must work extra hard to overcome the bias that immigrants bring with them, and show that RCMP is a valiant organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Canadians. A few suggestions will help achieve this goal.

Communication. It’s important for officers to be patient with various ethnic and cultural groups as English or French may not be their first language. Seek to understand, repeat instructions slowly and politely, and review written and verbal statements often. This will ensure the information being relayed is accurate and intended. The language barrier also creates fear and lack of confidence for many people, who tend to "turtle up" within their own communities and rarely interact outside their groups. Having a translator or a respected member of the community present can be beneficial.

Approachability. Everyone gets nervous when they see a police cruiser in the rear-view mirror and officers sporting sunglasses appear even more intimidating. Officers must show genuine concern when working with civilians and make themselves approachable. Try removing your sunglasses when working with civilians: seeing your eyes shows genuine intent and will help relax them. Wearing sunglasses shows disengagement. Be aware of your body language and possible cultural faux pas. Can a male touch a female? Is it permissible to enter a house with shoes on? Should I remove my cap when addressing a senior person? When in doubt, always ask.

Being approachable also means being visible and accessible under normal circumstances, not just during an incident. Be involved in cultural events, visit a mosque or church on a friendly tour, find out what’s causing concern in the neighbourhood. Be proactive in asking about their well-being and members of the public will be proactive in sharing information. Share a meal:  food brings everyone together.

Information. What’s routine for officers may be interpreted as special treatment or racial profiling for civilians. Various cultural groups may not be familiar with Canadian rights, laws and procedures, so it’s important that officers explain pertinent steps and information as needed.

Involvement. Public safety announcements, awareness programs, recruitment drives and hotlines for sharing tips and leads must include content that ethnic and cultural groups can connect with. This requires understanding the needs of a cultural group, involving them in creating the material and making them drive the program. Recruiting from various ethnic communities provides tremendous buy-in value from that community.

Trust. This comes only with time and repeated successes in establishing strong working relationships with the communities. Get to know your community. Good neighbours keep safer neighbourhoods.

Nona R. German

The conversation and debate surrounding minorities within the Edmonton Police Service is framed erroneously and plays into a presumption that places the onus of the challenges upon minorities. This is not shocking as there is a long history of police officers attempting to mitigate the “Indian problem” without regard to the “settler problem.”

Historically, rather than creating a conversation around what they want, police relations may benefit more from examining a rather villainous history to see what they don’t want. This perspective has changed in the Edmonton Police Service with the development of public liaison committees from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. There’s a sincere desire within policing services to better address long-standing contentious concerns within the Aboriginal (and other) populations.

While incidents that stem from racism may be isolated in nature, they act to vilify all police officers to Aboriginal peoples, just as incidents with minorities may create a stigma regarding “minority problems” within police services. To assume that special treatment or policy is needed is to assume that problems lay within those populations rather than assuming that the problem lies within how those populations are viewed and/or dealt with.

While official policing policies may reflect bureaucratic concepts of sensitivity and equality, pathological connections to minorities continue to exist within Canadian society. Police officers are not immune to this, but can be educated to transcend it. In this sense, equal treatment may mean an officer being able to cognitively process historical relations that have led to contemporary situations in their day-to-day activity. If an officer can understand at an analytical level why some populations may be more involved in activity needing their attention, they may deal with them in a more appropriate manner.

The Canadian mosaic is quite blatantly a false construct.  In responding to a survey, most Canadians may “like” a multi-cultural society when asked, but will cross the street when they see a homeless Aboriginal man doing little more than walking along. 

If the Edmonton Police Service were to play into the results of a simple survey solely as a means of supporting policies, they wouldn’t accomplish much. Instead they’ve responded to various cultural groups in a very good way through the formation of a process whereby information is exchanged in a constructive and productive manner. Continued action and understanding through the Edmonton Police Service Aboriginal Community Liaison Committee, and other committees like it, helps us all to move forward. After all, we all want to live our lives without having to struggle for the essentials (food, water, shelter) and without having to explain ourselves at every innocent and legal action.
Rodney McLeod

This question is difficult and complex to answer because of the history and diversity within the Aboriginal community. One person may want nothing from the police. Another may want to trust police officers. Some may be the product of the child and family services and/or justice system, and may just want police officers to understand where they are coming from.

Many police officers may not have, or may never experience, the immense spiritual, mental, emotional and physical trauma that many Aboriginal peoples deal with daily from the decades of ongoing oppression faced by their people. Coming from a people who have been deeply oppressed, many reflect on themselves as inferior beings and thus have very low self-esteem, hold the belief that they belong incarcerated or, worse, think they are better off dead, leading to suicide and self-destructive behaviours.

When abuse becomes normal, and when an authority figure becomes present, many act in the only way they know how, using abusive and disrespectful behaviour. Many of the Aboriginal peoples who come into contact with police officers are the ones who have lost their solid grounding in what it means to be of Aboriginal descent: to live healthy and in harmony with oneself and others. 

Police officers need to practise respect, honesty, gratitude and humility, and lead by example, becoming empathetic towards those who are lost in their identity and show care for what some of these individuals are going through. In order to trust police, much of the responsibility comes from those in positions of power and authority to act in a manner where tension is reduced, showing some empathy and building relationships of trust.

Police may need to become more open-minded about the history, contributions and relevancy the Aboriginal culture and way of life have, not just for Aboriginal peoples, but for all those looking for a deep, meaningful relationship with themselves, the environment and others to secure a quality life.

Also many Aboriginals would like the police department to have more involvement and understanding of the Aboriginal culture and way of life. This may be achieved by facilitating sharing circles with the police department, and for the department to support and appreciate the importance of mending broken relationships of trust through restorative justice programs and sharing circles. Areas of trust have been and continue to be found in the sacred circle.

Equal relations are shown to enhance communication, information-sharing and knowledge of each others’ histories and desired futures. Many Aboriginals want police and their departments to understand, respect and practise the Aboriginal way of life — a way of life that honours trust and brother/sisterhood to become a people of one.

External Submissions

A matter of trust

Police partner with language school to help new immigrants feel safe

By Cardiff Bay Police Station, South Wales Police, United Kingdom

In 2001, the United Kingdom experienced significant rises in immigrant arrivals seeking political asylum. As a result, the U.K. Government devised a policy to relocate asylum seekers across the United Kingdom to reduce the impact experienced particularly in London and the South East.

Cardiff became the first local authority in Wales to receive large numbers of asylum seekers. About 2,000 individuals arrived in the first year alone.

The South Wales Police quickly recognized that as a result of the introduction of large numbers of migrants to their communities, many with a limited knowledge of English and a variety of cultural and religious values, these new arrivals faced many challenges, among them, language barriers and a very limited understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities.

Cst. Vince Donovan, a 15-year member of the South Wales Police Service, was tasked by senior managers to be the lead officer responsible for asylum seeker issues related to police training and awareness.

Donovan understood that many of these individuals had inherent fears of the police as a result of past experiences. He’d heard stories about asylum seekers having been beaten, robbed and even raped by police in their home countries.

“I felt it was so important to try and ease such fears and go some way to try and change inherent perceptions,” says Donovan. “I wanted new arrivals to appreciate that police in the U.K. were friendly and approachable; the officers were here to help and protect them.”
Looking for an opportunity to connect with this community, he approached Susan Morris of the Cardiff English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services. Together they designed a course to provide asylum seekers with an understanding of their rights and responsibilities while building a relationship of trust. The result was the first police-led ESOL class for the newcomer community.

Learning to feel safe

Policesol is a course that teaches English as it builds relationships between law enforcement officers and the new migrant community. Developed to complement existing English training resources, it focuses on providing students with practical knowledge about law and policing in the United Kingdom.

Designed as a series of 10 two-hour sessions, the course includes topics such as “An introduction to the police,” “Dealing with an emergency,” “Child safety in the United Kingdom” and “Driving in the United Kingdom.” The course also addresses racism, domestic violence and personal safety.

Each session is intended to give students confidence in the police, an awareness of the role of the police and an understanding of laws in the United Kingdom, while developing core written and spoken English skills. 

When the topic of the police is first introduced, students become noticeably quieter and tense. Many of the students have experienced corrupt police practices and ill treatment by police in the past.

However, ESOL teachers continually emphasize that the police are there to provide students with the information they’ll need to live comfortably and safely in the United Kingdom. Each session also includes time for students to ask direct questions to police officers and raise issues of particular concern. Examples of the questions raised include how many passengers may be legally carried in a motor vehicle, what is racism, and how can police in the United Kingdom arrest someone.

But the key aim of Policesol is to reduce the fears and perceptions that students may harbour of the police from possible previous experiences in their own country. For this reason, police officers who attend Policesol do so in uniform, which provides the opportunity for students to gain the confidence to speak to a member of the police service. Such engagement in the classroom can lead to students gaining the courage to speak to a uniformed member out in the community or at a police station.

“I remember walking into a classroom and seeing some men and women physically shake at my presence in the room,” recalls Donovan. “However, after engaging with them through the teaching sessions, I found that I soon had difficulty leaving since I had so many offers of food and invites to homes for meals – all a sign of appreciation and trust.”

Building stronger relationships between the police and asylum communities also helped reduce fears that have traditionally prevented racial incidents or domestic violence incidents from being reported. The lessons also ensured that asylum seekers would know how and when to use the 999 emergency telephone number and when more appropriate the non-emergency number. The ‘ripple effect’ of what is learned extends not only to family members and friends, but to the wider community.

From a policing perspective, another significant benefit of Policesol is that it provides an excellent opportunity for police to gain a hands-on, practical understanding of diversity issues among the ethnic minority communities who reside in their neighbourhood.


Policesol is an example of a program that provides new arrivals with cultural information, core language skills and actively looks to pre-empt potential community relationship problems.

“The ESOL course was popular with students,” says Morris. “Their feedback showed that the classes succeeded in strengthening their confidence in the police, their safety in the U.K. and improving their written and spoken English. The women-only ESOL classes that were held in primary schools were particularly appreciated.”

Cardiff Police now encourage increasing numbers of officers to attend Policesol classes and to share in the outreach experience. Following a successful pilot, the course is now being held at resource centres across Cardiff with lessons taught by ESOL staff in conjunction with neighbourhood police officers.

The success of this community policing initiative has been recognized and adapted by other communities across the United Kingdom. Sheffield College adopted the course for ESOL students at the community college for students considering police-related career options, adding a work placement and volunteer component to the program. Police in South Yorkshire, England are also actively encouraging ethnic minorities to attend Policesol training courses.

Policesol also prompted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the largest broadcasting corporation in the world, to create a citizenship CD and establish a website to help ESOL learners and teachers explore citizenship ideas.

Diversity and leadership

A Dutch officer's experience in a multicultural city

By Patrick Voss, commissioner of police, Netherlands Police Agency

The Netherlands is going through an economic crisis, as is much of Europe. There are more immigrants, mainly from eastern countries, moving here. And there has been a rapid change in cultural diversity in the large cities such as Amsterdam, a trend that’s now spreading to the rural areas.

In 2010, as part of a work/study program on diversity in policing, I was very fortunate to spend two months at the Toronto Police Service (TPS). While there, I had the opportunity to meet a broad variety of people from all over the world and to learn how the TPS’s community outreach programs contribute to constructive relationships and positive interactions between police and underprivileged or excluded groups in the community.

Leadership styles

My focus while visiting Toronto was on leadership styles that are supportive of diversity. There are two leadership styles that support a diverse work environment: transformational leadership and participating leadership.

Transformational leaders motivate, inspire, give direction and unite people. They are proactive, and create both a shared vision of the future and the right conditions for an inclusive environment.

Participating leaders share information, use the ideas and suggestions of subordinates and come to group decisions. Participating leaders know how to motivate people and involve them in the decision-making process. They contribute to a work environment that’s conducive to diversity, and encourages and integrates different perspectives. This is where participating leadership plays a prominent role.

If one is placed in a multicultural environment where no one knows any differently, it feels natural to become a part of it. During my visit to Toronto, I met people who I never would have met otherwise by stepping out on a daily basis and starting conversations with them. While 50 per cent of my time was spent within the Toronto Police Service, the rest of my visit focused on interacting with Toronto citizens, and it was time well spent.

It’s impossible to learn from a book how to be open-minded and show empathy for others —  preconditions for engaging in talks that aren’t superficial. Through active participation in a multicultural environment, it’s possible to develop these competencies. One just has to be truly interested in other people.

My stay in Toronto taught me how to see myself in a different light. The contrast between my private life and my life within a multicultural society like Toronto’s was significant. In the Netherlands, I usually deal with native Dutch people, but in Toronto the reality was quite different.

Being tolerant toward others, showing appreciation and making positive use of the differences were given a new meaning during my trip. The TPS’s community consultative committees illustrate this point. At one meeting I attended, the district police chief and a representative of one of the cultural groups met not only to discuss recent activities but also shared best practices, insights and vulnerabilities. Rather than merely appreciating the differences, they focused on making use of them. This was evident from the way everyone showed interest in the others’ problems and came up with practical solutions. The ideas and proposals put forward were transformed into action.

Strategic leaders

Four years ago, the Dutch police drew up a management development assessment that identifies several desired core competencies for its leaders. These competencies include integrity, courage, creativity, initiative, sociability, empathy and being results-oriented. In my view, these focus too much on traditional Dutch society rather than on international and intercultural aspects, such as having cultural empathy, showing emotional stability, and being open-minded and flexible. International and intercultural competencies should be integrated into the standard toolbox of strategic leaders.

One of the behaviours I’ve already changed is to stop using the Dutch words autochtoon (native population) and allochtoon (ethnic minority), which are all too often used when talking about diversity in the Netherlands. These words highlight the differences between groups of people, rather than stress the added value these differences bring.

My style of leadership has definitely changed, too. I’ve become more outspoken and more sensitive to the possible exclusion of people. And it’s an experience for which I’m grateful.

An instant hit

Giving Montreal youth a fighting chance through boxing

By Cst. Evens Guercy, City of Montreal Police Service, President/Founder of Hope Boxing Club

Cst. Evens Guercy posing with Montreal youth
Montreal police Cst. Evens Guercy says the sport of boxing imparts important lessons, including learning respect, setting goals and dealing with adversity and defeat.
Photo: Club de boxe l'Espoir

About seven years ago, loitering was a big problem at the St. Michel metro station.

St. Michel is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Montreal, where approximately 40 per cent of households live below the poverty line and 30 per cent are single-parent families. St. Michel is also the infamous stronghold of the CRIPS street gang.

Following a litany of citizen complaints to city hall and police, efforts were made in accordance with a Montreal Transit Commission regulation to raise awareness among youth about the metro’s no loitering by-law.  

Unfortunately, it did little to change the situation. So the City of Montreal Police Service (CMPS) decided to go on the offensive, conducting a targeted operation and handing out loitering fines to defiant youth in the metro.  

I took part in that operation and was moved by an emotional teen who insisted he wasn’t loitering, that the subway was just a place for him and his buddies to hang out after school because they had nowhere else to go. He said there was no way he could bring a $118 loitering ticket home. I empathized with him, and decided then and there to do something about it.

Over the next few days, I talked to my immediate supervisor, Sgt. Charles Dubois, about finding a place where kids could go and learn an Olympic sport like boxing, instead of hanging out in the subway. He thought it was a great idea and that it could really make a difference.

He helped me set up a partnership project: we received a $4,000 grant from the city (borough of Villeray/Saint-Michel/Parc-Extension), the Montreal School Board gave us space in a local high school, and we spread word about the club through neighbourhood high schools, patrol officers and a community agency called Maison d’Haïti.

I chose Olympic boxing as the club’s discipline of choice because I was a boxing enthusiast myself and knew first-hand what the sport has to offer: learning respect, setting goals, working as a team, and dealing with adversity and defeat, to name a few. The City of Montreal required that we change the name of the project from Programme de boxe pour les jeunes (Youth Boxing Program) to Mieux grandir par le sport (Better Growth Through Sports).

We spent the first $3,000 on basic equipment (punching bags, gloves, jump ropes, punch mitts), and had no money left for a trainer. So to keep the project afloat, I obtained my trainer certification from the Quebec Olympic Boxing Federation and started running classes during my free time.  

The program was an instant hit with local youth, who no longer saw me as a cop but as a real person. They knew I wasn’t getting paid to run the club. I’d even bring my daughter in with me, and she’d do her homework while I taught the kids how to box. Over time, officers from my team started getting involved in the program by volunteering, for instance to paint the gym. Today, the club receives financing from the CMPS and Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montréal.

I’m proud of our many accomplishments: one of our young boxers won a medal at the Canadian national championships; another one was crowned champion of Quebec; another one took charge of his life, achieved his dream of landing a role in a movie that will hit the big screen and shot some 50 episodes of a Radio-Canada television series; and others continue to succeed with their CEGEP (college) and university studies.  

We have to believe in ourselves and, as police officers, we can give back to the community through volunteering. It does wonders for how we are perceived by the people we serve. As front-line responders, we are well positioned to seek financing for initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions of youth in our communities.

Cst. Evens Guercy joined the City of Montreal Police Service (CMPS) nine years ago.

For more information, visit the club’s website at:

Report homophobic violence, period.

Toronto police see success from awareness program

By Acting Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire, co-chair of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community consultative committee, Toronto Police Service

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) delivers policing services in one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world. The area of jurisdiction is also home to one of the largest populations of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in North America. The TPS is the largest municipal law enforcement agency in Canada and the fifth largest in North America. As in most jurisdictions, crime motivated by hate or bias affects a number of communities.

The TPS has a number of community consultative committees (CCC) each representing a separate and distinct segment of the population. Each of the committees has a police and a civilian co-chair and is further comprised of representatives throughout the specific community. The police co-chairs, who are senior managers, are appointed by the chief of police.

The purpose of the CCCs is to give members of the community access to senior management of the TPS to ensure that the community and police work together on policing issues affecting that community.

Homophobic bullying

In September 2007, members of the LGBT CCC expressed concern to police about the continued victimization of members of the LGBT community in the streets of Toronto. Of particular concern were the alarming levels of homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence in some schools. The TPS LGBT committee expressed the opinion that bullying behaviour in school was a precursor to the commission of homophobic/transphobic hate crimes. A chilling example of the severity of this problem in Canadian schools was the suicide of a 13-year-old student just outside of Toronto.

As a result, the TPS LGBT committee spearheaded an initiative to tackle the problem through awareness and education. The committee first identified suitable community partners and formed a working group that included 21 agencies, community service providers and community organizations.
Members of the working group held information sessions that brought together victims and witnesses of homophobic/transphobic bullying and violence with community stakeholders, educators and graphic design students.
This working group enabled participants to learn first-hand about the effects of homophobic/transphobic bullying and violence on young people. Subcommittees were struck to gather information and clearly delineate the scope of the awareness project.
Based on analysis and community-policing and crime-prevention principles, the working group developed a number of key priorities and core strategies: identify and target key sites of violence; promote early prevention and intervention; improve service delivery; support victims; assist in reporting hate crimes and facilitate those seeking assistance.

The goal of applying these crime prevention principles and strategies is to accomplish the following:

  • Increase police-reported and third-party reported hate crimes and incidents
  • Decrease the fear of victimization and increase the sense of safety and enjoyment of life for members of the LGBT community
  • Significantly reduce homophobic/transphobic bullying in schools and create a safer and more inclusive school environment
  • Correct bias-motivated behaviour before it reaches the criminal threshold
  • Heighten community awareness of the unacceptability of homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence


Break the silence

All of this collaborative work resulted in the development and delivery of the Report Homophobic Violence, Period. (RHVP) program. RHVPis a public awareness and education campaign aimed at young people between the ages of 13 and 25 to address reasons for homophobic attitudes and spur others to report harassment and violence to adults and police.

With messages like Prove Them Wrong, Fight Hate Crime with Courage or Take Back your School from Hate Crimes, the campaign is designed to empower young people, many of whom experience a profound level of harassment despite changing attitudes in society.

The program targets a number of groups of people including the victim, the abuser and the bystanders. To the best of our knowledge, RHVP is the only police LGBT anti-violence program that features an LGBT youth suicide prevention module as an integral component.

“We have hate-crime legislation, but it is only as good as its implementation,” says retired Cst. Tom Decker, the former LGBT liaison officer at TPS. “We want to counteract the underreporting of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.”

“Underreporting occurs when many victims feel they won’t be taken seriously, they’re embarrassed, they live in fear of isolation and retaliation, or they feel the incident didn’t get out of control. Many still feel that by reporting, they may be re-victimized by the agents they turn to for help,” explains Decker.

The TPS wants to send a strong message through its involvement in RHVP that this isn’t the case and that incidents of this nature are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

The RHVP campaign has a traditional advertising component, complete with billboards and multimedia, but also has lesson plans catering to middle and secondary schools as well as adult education classrooms.  

Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (Egale) is one of the community members that forms the LGBT CCC. Egale contributed a considerable amount of time and effort to provide the RHVP training program to law enforcement agencies across Canada and beyond.


The 2008 TPS annual hate/bias crime statistical report reflects a 100 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes motivated by someone’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, with 34 occurrences in 2008 up from 17 occurrences in 2007.

This report captures only those incidents that reached the criminal threshold and doesn’t include reports of homophobic/transphobic slurs and name-calling. This rise in occurrences was most pronounced in the second half of 2008 after the launch of RHVP.

In 2009, the program yielded an increased rate of reporting, yet somewhat lower than in 2008. This is likely attributed to the fact that the educational and enforcement side of the program has resulted in an increased community awareness of the negative impact of homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence.

Third-party reporting agencies have seen a similar increase in reporting. In 2008, the LGBT Youthline recorded a 25 per cent increase in client contacts from 2007. The 2007 to 2009 statistical data provided by the Anti-Violence Program of the 519 Church Street Community Centre also showed a steady increase. Both police and third-party reporting agencies have seen an increase in reports since the launch of the program. Of special interest is the fact that reports to police, which involve only incidents where the criminal threshold was reached, have seen the most significant increase.

The TPS attributes this to the success of the program in creating increased community trust and a climate that’s more conducive for victims to come forward and report their hate/bias victimization to police.

Combatting hate from home

The RCMP in Alberta is helping equip fellow police officers and community members alike to recognize and deal with hate crimes in their communities.

The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC) has put together Beyond Hate: A Resource Toolkit, with the hope of combatting the issue in their province.

Sgt. Darryl Urano, the hate bias crime and diversity program manager for the Alberta RCMP, is a member of the AHCC. He says the toolkit, which was launched in Fort McMurray in April, has been in the works for quite a while. It’s intended to be something concrete to hand out to help address hate as it arises.

“It’s just a template communities can use to mobilize and form their own committees to move forward and combat the issue,” says Urano. “Instead of just sitting there wondering what can you do, what can you say.”

In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is no legal definition or recourse for hate crimes. However, through the Canadian Criminal Code, incidents motivated by hate and incitement of hatred for an identifiable group do result in harsher sentencing principles.

Although it’s outlined in the Criminal Code, many — law enforcement included — are unsure of what constitutes a criminal act.

What may seem like freedom of expression may be incitement of hatred and vice versa. Urano says with just one person for the whole province, the ability to pass on the toolkit in cases like that will make things much faster and efficient all around.

Urano adds the information isn’t just specific to Alberta. It could be used as is or even adapted for other provinces in similar situations.

“There’s other resources, hyperlinks and contact lists so if you’re sitting in the middle of small town Alberta, you can at least get the ball rolling,” says Urano. “I want to make sure that’s available for our members because some people might start reading and say ‘okay, I can do that.’”

Yakama Nation outreach

Traffic safety in a culturally diverse community

Lieutenant Terry Liebrecht , assistant commander district three, Washington State Patrol

Yakima County is located in south central Washington State and is the second largest of the 39 counties in the state. Its diverse topography encompasses the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range and the semi-arid desert climate of the foothills. Despite its size, the county is home to only 35 per cent of the total population of Washington. 

There are 10 law enforcement agencies in Yakima County that provide state, county and municipal police services to its 243,231 residents. Its population is diverse: residents are 47.7 per cent Caucasian, 45 per cent Hispanic/Latino, 4.3 per cent Native American and 2.2 per cent other races.

In 2007, under the leadership of Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, the state of Washington reached the lowest traffic fatality death rate ever recorded (1.0 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles travelled), a good news story for the safety of residents. Conversely, a 2004 study found that the number of fatal motor vehicle crashes on reservation roads had increased by 52.5 per cent nationally, compared to a 2.2 per cent decrease in the rest of the United States. Fatal crash data, when analyzed regionally across the United States, showed that Native Americans die at a rate 3.5 to 5.0 times higher when compared to other racial groups. Something had to change.

Yakama Nation Reservation

The Yakama Indian Nation Reservation is the 15th largest reservation in the United States and is the largest in Washington in terms of land mass. Despite the area’s total coverage, the population of Yakama Reservation in 2010 was 31,799 — 13 per cent of Yakima County. 

The Yakama Tribe was awarded sovereign status by the United States Government under treaty agreements that date back to 1855.  The Yakama Nation is governed by the Yakama Tribal Council, an elected 14-member council that governs its members with tribal laws set forth by the Council and the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Yakama Nation Tribal Police Department normally staffs 10 to 12 sworn officers to cover an area nearly half the size of the entire county.  The police department provides law enforcement services to the 10,000 enrolled members on their reservation.

Between October 2007 and September 2008, Yakima County experienced 30 fatal traffic collisions, 16 of which occurred on the Yakama Reservation. Of the 16 fatalities, 13 or 81 per cent involved enrolled tribal members. Nine of these collisions involved an impaired motorist.

Initiating outreach

The primary goal of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is to make Washington roadways and ferries safe for the efficient transit of people and goods. One difficult enforcement challenge on the Yakama Reservation is that WSP troopers cannot issue civil infractions to tribal members on tribal land. Tribal members are not subject to civil infractions from outside governments while on tribal lands.

The Yakama Nation Outreach idea began in early August of 2008 as a presentation to Yakama tribal members during the tribe’s annual Treaty Days celebration. About 200 enrolled members heard the presentation, which outlined the tragic traffic statistics plaguing the Yakama Nation Reservation. Among them were Tribal Council women Lavina Washines and Portia Shields, who felt the entire Tribal Council should hear the presentation.

The Tribal Council generally holds its sessions behind closed doors and allows outside government visitors to approach only after the council agrees by a majority vote. The WSP had not been invited before the council since the mid-1980s. But a few months later, the Washington State Patrol was asked to present to the entire 14-member Yakama Tribal Council.

Capt. Shawn Berry, Lieut. Jim Keightley, Sgt. Ed McAvoy and Lowell Porter of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) made a compelling and emotional presentation to the Yakama tribal leaders describing how Native Americans were over represented in traffic fatalities in the state and nationally. Capt. Berry discussed the impact of those numbers locally: Yakama Tribal Members were six times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than other county residents. He explained that everyone needed to work together to address the problem.

Following the presentation, a new relationship was struck between the tribal leadership and the WSP, with the common goal of addressing traffic safety within Yakama Nation. A stronger partnership was also forged with the Tribal police, Tribal health and the White Swan Arts and Recreation Community Coalition. Together with these groups and the WTSC, the WSP implemented a three-pronged approach to make Yakima County’s roadways safer.

The approach to deal with the statistically high rate of traffic fatalities included a multi-faceted media campaign, targeted enforcement and education through public outreach efforts.   

Media campaign

The media campaign involved placing an advertisement targeting DUI (Driving under the Influence) awareness on a large billboard. The billboard highlighted the partnership between Tribal Police and WSP in their zero-tolerance stances on impaired driving. The billboard was erected near the Yakama Nation Tribal Cultural Center in the heart of the Yakama Nation Reservation.

In addition to the billboard, several ads were run in the Yakama Nation Review, a Yakama-Nation owned and operated newspaper. The ads included a safety message on occupant protection, specifically child seat safety.  This message highlighted the Yakama Nation’s own sovereign government law concerning child safety seats. The advertisement was titled “Buckle-Up, It’s Our Law Too!”

As visibility for the project grew, a radio public service announcement (PSA) was developed for the Yakama Nation, based on a similar PSA first introduced in New Mexico. The campaign slogan was “Save a Life, Save a Nation.

Targeted enforcement

One of the most significant challenges associated with the project, still, is that outside government officials are unable to issue civil infractions to enrolled members on tribal land. This is a challenge as non-tribal law enforcement officials attempt to influence tribal member driver behaviour on the roadways within the confines of the Yakama Reservation.

Building relationships between tribal members, police, tribal leaders and all Yakima County residents and debunking historical stereotypes was imperative to make this project function properly and make the roadways safer for all Yakima County residents.

As a result of the partnership developed between the Yakama Tribal Police, WTSC and WSP, a grant was submitted for the purchase of 10 portable breath test devices. The WTSC purchased the devices and the WSP provided training to the tribal police in their use.  They have been deployed to tribal officers to assist in our partnered approach to enforcement of impaired drivers.

Community outreach

The WSP also worked to improve its outreach with the Yakama Nation Reservation. Troopers and Yakama Nation police officers continue to participate in an annual “Spring Jam” event with the students, faculty and parents of the Mount Adams School District. This week-long event celebrates Native culture and is aimed at school-aged children on spring break.

In addition to “Spring Jam,” WSP troopers also partner with Yakama Nation officers on annual events such as the Treaty Days Celebration, Tribal Health Fair, Tribal Housing Fair, various school safety fairs and graduations, and safe neighbourhood night out.


In May 2009, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission held a traffic safety Tribal Summit, which brought together tribes from across the state to participate in an open discussion about Washington State’s strategic highway safety plan referred to as Target Zero. Target Zero outlines many strategies to reach zero traffic safety deaths by 2030 and how it applies to tribal governments. Yakama Tribal elder Eleanor Davis was featured in a short video presentation entitled “Protecting Our Future, Reducing Traffic Fatalities on Tribal Lands.”  She told the tragic story of losing her grandchild, who was killed in a collision involving a drunk driver.

Between 2006 and 2009, fatal collisions on the Yakama Nation Reservation represented 44 per cent of all traffic fatalities in Yakima County.  Forty-four per cent of the Yakama Nation fatalities involved DUI, and 25 per cent of all traffic fatality collisions in Yakima County involved Native drivers. In short, Native drivers from Yakama Nation were significantly over-represented in the traffic fatality statistics.

After the project concluded in 2009, using the traffic data from 2010 to 2011, 41 per cent of all traffic fatality collisions in Yakima County occurred on the Yakama Reservation. Of those 21 fatalities, 66 per cent involved DUI drivers. Of all traffic fatalities occurring in Yakima County, 23 per cent (10) involved Native drivers.

The project was successful. Overall in Yakima County, the number of fatal collisions dropped from 31 in 2009 to 19 in 2010. On the Yakama Reservation, the number of fatal collisions dropped from 16 in 2009 to 10 in 2010. In 2011, the number of fatal collisions increased slightly. However, the program achieved the goal of fewer fatal collisions in both Yakima County overall and on the Yakama Reservation. 

Many parts of the plan continue today, as WSP works with local law enforcement including the Yakama Nation Police Department, government leaders and the community to make its roadways safe.

Fair and impartial policing

Social psychology transforms law enforcement training

Anna T. Laszlo, Circle Solutions, Inc. and Lorie A. Fridell, PhD, University of South Florida

Fairness and impartiality are the hallmarks of policing in a democratic society.  In 1829, Sir Robert Peel wrote, “the police preserve public favour by absolute fair and impartial service to the law.” His words are particularly poignant today as police organizations, internationally, face the challenges of providing safe, effective and just police services to the diverse communities they serve.

Biased policing — whether actual or perceived — threatens the relationship between police and community members.  Without the demonstration of fundamental fairness and transparent impartiality, police risk not only the trust and confidence of the communities they serve but also the loss of the values that underlie a democracy.

Addressing biased policing

Law enforcement professionals, community members, and academics continue to engage in vigorous discussions about racial/ethnic-biased policing.  Much of this discussion has been based on an assumption that rampant and perhaps deeply ingrained racism in police produces biased policing.

Accusations of “widespread racism” among police are unproven and have inevitably led to defensive responses on the part of law enforcement. Police leaders who have heard that biased policing results from “widespread racism” within the profession may be disinclined to acknowledge a problem and therefore disinclined to initiate potential reforms. Similarly, officers who have heard the “racist police” characterization may deny the existence of biased policing and their involvement in it (Fridell, 2008).  

The science of human bias

While some biased policing is caused by intentional discrimination, research points to another mechanism producing biased behaviour. Social psychologists have shown that biases are normal human attributes — even well-meaning people, who consciously ascribe to non-prejudiced beliefs and attitudes, have unconscious or “implicit biases.”

One implicit bias that has particular relevance for policing is the automatic or implicit association between minorities and crime (Eberhart,, 2004).  Over six decades of research has identified this implicit bias linking minorities and crime even in people who test as “non prejudiced” and are otherwise “consciously tolerant.” This association has shown impacts on both perceptions and behaviour.

The good news from this extensive research is that people who are aware of their implicit biases can reduce or eliminate their impact on behaviour (Dovidio, 2000).  Additionally, a 2007 study by Correll indicated that police training can reduce the impact of unconscious bias on behaviour.1

Implications for police training

A broader conceptualization of biased policing — one that acknowledges the existence of human biases, even in well-intentioned individuals — is not only more accurate in conveying the causes of biased policing, but also reduces police defensiveness. Such a perspective acknowledges that the vast majority of police personnel are well-meaning and dedicated to serving all citizens with fairness and dignity. Despite their good intentions, their behaviours may still manifest biased policing or give rise to the perceptions of it. Like humans in every profession, these officers may not be fully cognizant of the extent to which race/ethnicity impact their decision-making or the behaviours that may give rise to citizen perceptions of bias. 

A law enforcement organization that acknowledges the potential impact of implicit bias on police behaviour would want training that addresses the following five things: makes personnel aware of implicit biases; gives personnel skills to counteract their implicit biases; helps first-line supervisors understand how to identify biased policing in their subordinates, early and effectively; assists law enforcement executives in developing organizational policies that promote fair and impartial policing; and engages law enforcement executives and community leaders in collaborative learning to produce fair and impartial policing. 

The Fair and Impartial Policing Training Program (FIPTP) is a science-based training program that applies the social psychological research on human bias to police policy and practice. Four separate, complementary curricula encompass the FIPTP:

  • Recruit academy/patrol officers
  • First-line supervisors
  • Training-of-trainers2
  • Command/community leaders3


Each curriculum presents the science of human bias, focusing not just on racial/ethnic bias, but also on gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation/identity and religious biases. The training design is comprehensive: it engages officers as “research participants” — vividly demonstrating what the science tells us about how humans process perceptions and associations; it challenges officers to question the quick conclusions they might draw about individuals with whom they interact; and it allows officers to practise the skills that will result in safe, effective and just policing.  

Supervisors also learn to identify and respond to bias in their subordinates and reflect upon how bias might manifest in their own work.  They can address how difficult it is to identify biased behaviour and discuss the importanceof supervising to promote fair and impartial policing.
The training-of-trainers course is designed to allow teams of highly experienced instructors to learn the substance and training methods of both the recruit/patrol officers and supervisors curricula.  The command/community leader training empowers participants to implement a comprehensive agency program to produce fair and impartial policing. 

 “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”

To paraphrase Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics from South Pacific, “you’ve got to be [carefully] taught to be unafraid of people whose eyes are oddly made, or people whose skin is a different shade.” While implicit associations take a lifetime to develop and are difficult to reduce or eliminate, people can learn to implement controlled (unbiased) behavioural responses that override automatic (biased) associations.
The Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) perspective changes the way we think about bias and helps policing professionals and their agencies promote safe, effective and just policing as envisioned by Peel and in the finest traditions of policing in a democratic society.  

Anna T. Laszlo is the director of research and knowledge management services, Circle Solutions, Inc., in McLean, VA. Lorie A. Fridell is an associate professor of criminology and graduate director, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. The authors are the creators of the Fair and Impartial Policing Training Program.

For more information, contact Dr. Lorie Fridell at or Anna T. Laszlo at

1 Allport and Postman, 1947; Correll, et. al. 2002; Devine, 1989; Duncan, 1976; Greenwald, Oakes and Hoffman, 2003; Payne, 2001; Sugar and Schofeld, 1980; Eberhardt, et. al. 2004.

2 The Recruit /Patrol Officers,  First-Line Supervisors and Training-of-Trainers’ curricula were developed by the University of South Florida  and Circle Solutions, Inc. with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, co-operative agreement # 2010CKEXK015.

3 The Command/Community Leaders curriculum was developed by Fair and Impartial Policing, LLC.


Allport, G.W., and Postman, L.J. 1947.  The Psychology of Rumor.  New York:  Russell and Russell.

Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C.M., Wittenbrink, B.W. 2002.  “The police officer’s dilemma:  Using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 33: 541-560.

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Know your neighbourhoods

How community outreach can reduce crime

By Joseph D. McNamara

The New York City Police academy training emphasized treating everyone fairly and avoiding discriminatory conduct. As a 21-year-old rookie patrolman in New York’s Harlem, I nevertheless suffered a culture shock observing the poverty, crime, violence and unofficial segregation surrounding me, things not mentioned during our training.

One day, an attractive, well-dressed 30-year-old African-American woman, bleeding from a head wound, ran up to me on my foot beat. “Officer,” she said, “I know you’re terribly busy, but I’ve just been robbed!” Actually, I hadn’t been busy at all, simply standing on a street corner.

The criminal had escaped and a number of witnesses, although sympathetic to the victim, declined to give me information that would have led to the capture of the armed robber.

What image had this innocent woman, who had been viciously attacked, held of the police that compelled her to apologize for reporting a brutal crime? What view of the police did the witnesses hold that kept them from alerting a nearby policeman who could have prevented the crime? During the rest of my 35-year career in policing, I never forgot the lessons learned from that incident.

Correcting police indifference

The high rate of violence and crime in Harlem was directly related to the failure of the police department to understand and work within the culture of the community to prevent crime. The department hadn’t convinced highly victimized but law-abiding people that the police really wanted to keep them from harm, and that a partnership between the community and police was the best way of protecting them, their families and their property. The NYPD rules actually specified that “members of the force shall not engage in unnecessary conversation with the public.” Little wonder that people regarded the police as aloof and indifferent to their problems.

Fifteen years later, I was appointed police chief of Kansas City, Missouri, a Midwestern city of half a million people.

The same lack of public and police partnership that existed in New York haunted Kansas City. As a result, the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) reached out with a number of new approaches to convince neighbourhood people that the men and women of the department were dedicated to protecting them even at the risk of police lives. The department recruited leaders from the high-crime neighbourhoods to conduct cultural awareness classes to help explain to officers the nuances of different cultures that shaped their response to crime and the police.

Simultaneously, the department began to have beat officers and district sergeants interact with neighbourhood people and school and parent organizations during community meetings of homeowners, apartment renters and other groups.

The value of these approaches was quickly apparent. Organizations such as the NAACP and La Raza, representing the African-American and Latino communities, began to participate with the police in positive crime-prevention efforts. Personal contact between officers and those they served provided invaluable intelligence for the police on what crime problems existed and the needs of citizens. Officers soon realized that the overwhelming majority of people were supportive. The people wanted more good policing, not less.

For the first time, localities saw officers as individuals anxious to protect them rather than aloof strangers occupying their neighbourhoods, who existed simply to give them traffic citations or arrest them for minor violations.

After a year or so, crime began to decrease. Newspaper enterprises named the department as best in the nation because improved relations with minority groups made people more willing to report crime to the police, provide information as witnesses and, when they sat on a jury, believe police testimony. In addition to the decline in crime, the KCPD began to significantly succeed in recruiting more women, African Americans and Latinos to the force, which in turn reinforced the idea of a police and community partnership.

Three years later, I moved west to become police chief of San Jose, California. San Jose is now a city of more than a million people, the majority of which are members of minority groups that embrace a wide variety of cultures and languages.

Community outreach

In addition to the cultural awareness training and outreach programs that had succeeded in Kansas City, San Jose police had to find ways to respond to, and deal with, other challenges as well. More than 50,000 Vietnamese had relocated almost overnight to San Jose following the fall of Saigon. They were overwhelmingly good, law-abiding citizens who quickly assimilated into the community. The newest arrivals were gratified to enjoy freedoms we take for granted. Their strong family-oriented culture enabled them to quickly move into businesses and seek personal advancement through public education.

Like other immigrant groups, the Vietnamese experienced problems. Many of these respectable immigrants had suffered at the hands of the police and government in the country they fled. A number of young men drifted into criminal gangs, which were quick to exploit the reluctance of other Vietnamese immigrants to trust the police and seek protection from gangsters. Home invasion robberies and extortion of businesses became a serious problem in the Vietnamese neighbourhoods. The San Jose Police Department began a major effort to reach out to the Vietnamese to convince them to partner with police officers against criminals.

First efforts were the same, with cultural awareness training classes, beat officers leaving their patrol cars to visit business and neighbourhood groups, and the distribution of police crime prevention literature in both Vietnamese and English explaining how and when to call the police and how the American criminal justice system functions. Outreach efforts through radio, television and print media in the Vietnamese language were also effective in educating the new arrivals on how to improve their safety by working with the police. The department was fortunate to receive a great deal of assistance from the Naval Language School in nearby Monterey, which volunteered to provide a 24-hour translation service in Vietnamese and other languages.

Within a couple of years, these outreach efforts succeeded to a point where San Jose became the safest large city in the United States.

Police culture change

Police departments also have cultures that need to be addressed. In response to early efforts, the police union issued an official reprimand because “the police chief had tried to please the public.”

The historical mythology of policing that tough, alert cops prevent crime despite public indifference or hostility, had to yield to research findings showing that most crimes are solved, and convictions obtained, when ordinary people call 911 in a timely fashion, serve as witnesses, and are not biased against police testimony when they serve on a jury.

Cops also had to be persuaded that outreach programs were not merely superficial public relations efforts coming from headquarters. Outreach is, in reality, a valuable tool for beat officers to achieve their primary duty of protecting life and property.

The best police department is a police department that is, to borrow from Abraham Lincoln, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Joseph D. McNamara served 35 years in policing, rising from beat officer in the NYPD to director of crime analysis for New York City. He was police chief in Kansas City, Missouri for three years and San Jose, California for 15 years. The author of six books, McNamara is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.