Two reports that address “systemic racism” within the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) should be viewed as a call to action to build trust with Indigenous people, Toronto criminal lawyer Laurelly Dale tells The Lawyer’s Daily.
However, Dale, principal of Dale Law Professional Corporation, tells the online publication that she worries that media coverage of these reports could lead to further distrust.
“Yes, it’s upsetting that there was systemic racism found in these reports, but people need to be reminded that the purpose of these reports isn’t to perpetuate hatred or further distrust of the police by the Aboriginal people,” says Dale, whose practice includes an office in Kenora, where 95 per cent of her clients are Indigenous.
“Not all police officers are racist, and people aren’t going to testify and co-operate with the police if they feel that they don’t trust them.”
The Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service report, published by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), and the Thunder Bay Police Services Board Investigation report, produced by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), outline ongoing racism within the police service that has eroded trust within Aboriginal communities.
Dale says reopening these investigations would be viewed by the Indigenous community as a positive step, but solving these cold cases will require Thunder Bay police to build trust with that community.
“The people on these reserves have associated the police with taking their fathers away and putting them in jail, and not doing anything when their mother is being abused and being labelled as a rat if they testify in court. So, it’s extremely difficult, from a police perspective, to bridge this deepening sinkhole of trust between these two sets of people,” says Dale.
She tells the online publication the situation reflects the Broken Window Theory, which is a concept that says each problem that goes unattended in a particular environment — for example a broken window — negatively affects people’s attitude toward that community and leads to further problems. Conversely, a well-tended environment, where issues are dealt with as they arise, positively affects attitudes and behaviour.
“One of the responses on how to combat that Broken Window Theory is by taking cars away from police officers and by having them engage more in foot patrols in communities.”
Dale also tells The Lawyer’s Daily that police should participate in healing lodges and meet with the community’s chief and council to build trust “so that this giant wound doesn’t further this cycle of systemic racism.”
Originally published in the Advocate Daily January 4th, 2019: https://www.advocatedaily.com/profile/laurelly-dale-dale-to-police-start-dialogue-to-break-cycle-of-distrust-1.html