Rethinking policing

“Defunding the police” can initially come across to some as questionable. What it means to me is reallocating some resources…”

The CAHOOTS program in Oregon is an example of success in using a 24/7 team of crisis responders trained in de-escalation techniques and mental health support, rather than using police alone. Could this be a useful model for Ottawa?

By Shawn Menard

With recent events in such places as Minneapolis, Toronto and New Brunswick, along with on-going issues of racial profiling, militarization of police and human resource issues here in Ottawa, it seems clear that we need to change our approach to policing. This includes acknowledging that we ask our police officers to respond to many types of situations that they themselves may not be comfortable with or not fully trained to manage.

Along with Councillor Rawlson King, I requested options for a review of policing in Ottawa, and with Councillor Catherine McKenney, I have put forward a motion to enact policing reforms.

“Defunding the police” can initially come across to some as questionable. What it means to me is reallocating some resources and looking comprehensively at programs, services and the professionals who are tasked with responding to emergencies with the goal of creating better outcomes for those needing help. An example of the type of reform we could see is a 24/7 team of responders trained to de-escalate, provide support and guidance, and offer unarmed mental health services. This has been done in other cities, one example being the CAHOOTS program in Oregon that has replaced 17 per cent of emergency calls.

Given that the police budget has tripled in Ottawa over 19 years to $360 million, we should be assessing value and outcomes regularly. We need to question the militarization of police, resulting in, for example, the use of costly armoured-tank–like vehicles and assault rifles at football games. I am also concerned about the increased provision of tasers, which the police board recently approved.

We must shift our overall approach to policing, so that we focus on maintaining public health, trust and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the city can’t do this alone. We need help from the province and the federal government to make the full, wide range of improvements.

One way you can make an impact is through the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (CSWB) that the city is currently developing. Residents are encouraged to provide ideas on the development of the plan’s priorities. Find out more at engage.ottawa.ca/Community-Safety-Well-Being-Plan or contact CSWB/SBEC@ottawa.ca or 613-580-2424, ext 42489 with your questions.

Shawn Menard is City Councillor for Capital Ward. He can be reached directly at Shawn.Menard@ottawa.ca.

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