Guelph Police offered reassurances that it existed to serve, protect and learn from the community on Thursday ahead of a protest planned for Saturday in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
George Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer pinned his neck under the policeman’s knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25, triggering anti-racism demonstrations across the U.S. and worldwide.
“On behalf of all members of the Guelph Police Service, I would like to reassure our community that we are here to serve and protect our citizens,” a statement from Chief Gordon Cobey said.
“This includes ensuring they have an opportunity to express their views and concerns.”
In his statement Thursday morning, Cobey did not directly address the protest as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, but hailed the event as “a peaceful march and protest to raise awareness for lives lost in violence.”
“We stand united and in solidarity with our community and any who have experienced racism or discrimination of any kind.”
In a response to Floyd’s death released on Tuesday, Cobey addressed concerns over police brutality in the Royal City, saying that “we will always strive to earn the trust of our community,” but admitted shortcomings.
“We recognize we are not perfect and we are committed to constant improvement in all areas of our work.”
GuelphWire has reached out for comment from the organizers of the Guelph Peaceful Protest to Support Black Lives Matter.
Police highlight efforts
The letter released by Chief Cobey on Tuesday laid out the steps the Service would be taking in the future to improve their service.
Cobey acknowledged that the killing of George Floyd has caused a decline in the public trust in the institution of policing.
“The death of George Floyd has shaken the trust of many,” Cobey said in his letter.
“[This] has understandably caused some in our community to question what we are doing locally to ensure we are providing kind, compassionate and bias-free policing service for our community.”
Cobey said that following community input and consultation, Guelph Police are involved in ongoing training to help the officers do their jobs better.
“Training is provided in relation to mental health awareness and de-escalation strategies and victim impact awareness,” he said.
“Much of this learning is delivered in consultation and in collaboration with those with lived experience from our Guelph community.”
With the international conversation shifting to non-violent policing tactics, and a higher standard of accountability in local police, Cobey said Guelph Police have been on the way to implementing body cameras for some time.
“We have received a number of questions in relation to our willingness to consider the use of body worn cameras for our members,” he said.
“We are very willing to examine the use of body worn cameras and we have been developing a pilot project that will see the implementation of body worn cameras by some of our members in the coming months,” he wrote.
“This project was approved as part of our 2020 Budget and we have been working diligently towards its implementation for several months.”
(Reporting by Eli Ridder)