Cancel the WRPS "Diversity Cruisers" Project

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The recent announcement by the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) of their plan to launch "diversity cruisers" coupled with "trading cards" for education on cultural and racial heritage is deeply disturbing and disappointing.

Painting Black, Indigenous, and other racialized bodies onto police vehicles, which are tools used to disproportionately arrest and incarcerate Black and Indigenous peoples, is a slap in the face to local Black, Indigenous, and people of colour activists who have been calling for the WRPS to take meaningful action towards the reduction of harm and violence police inflict on their communities. This is not meaningful action. 

For context:

The year 2020 was the deadliest year of the past 4 years for police shootings in Canada, with Black and Indigenous people being overrepresented in these shootings and killings. Of the 55 people shot by police between January 1 and November 30, 2020, 48% were Indigenous and 19% were Black. Thirty-four of these 55 people were killed, 9 of whom were killed during “wellness checks” (4 were racialized people).

Data from Toronto also show us that Black people are 20 times more likely than white people to be shot and killed by police. 

Here in Waterloo Region, Black people are carded at a rate 4 times their population in the community, and are subject to disproportionate use of force by WRPS, accounting for 17% of use of force incidents (51 of 301) in 2020. 

With this context in mind, the launching of “diversity cruisers” with race- and culture-based “trading cards” is disgraceful. Below are our concerns with the program as well as a list of our demands.

  • This project may actually result in further harm to Black and Indigenous peoples. To think that Black and Indigenous people will approach a police vehicle, with their phone in hand to scan the QR code, clearly shows WRPS does not understand or acknowledge the harm and violence the police inflict on Black and Indigenous people. Many Black and Indigenous people have been killed by police for being assumed to have a weapon when they do not, and this project increases the chances of this happening. 
  • The "trading cards" being proposed are based in a racist history that works to objectify, commodify, and dehumanize Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. Race and culture are not a game and this project treats people’s identities as though they are Pokemon cards to be collected

    Furthermore, to provide "trading cards" for cultural and racial education shows a shocking lack of understanding of the ways that Black and Indigenous people have been "traded" in Canada, and continue to be collected by the police, courts, and prison system. 
  • The police do not have the knowledge, expertise, or right to educate the public about the cultural heritage of African, Caribbean, South Asian, and Arab cultures. This is yet another example of how the police are attempting to position themselves as experts in an area in which they are not.
  • In Fall 2020, ReallocateWR called for the WRPS budget to be sent back to the Police Services Board with a 0% increase and a reinvestment of those funds into Black- and Indigenous-led community initiatives. Despite the clear demands laid out by ReallocateWR and overwhelming support from the community, the WR Regional Council denied these calls to action and allowed for the WRPS to increase their budget by $5,263,920. We are now seeing the impacts of this decision to increase police funding, including a lack of accountability and transparency, and an inappropriate use of public funds. This is not only disappointing but also contradicts what the community has asked for. 

Given the WRPS is publicly funded through taxpayer money, we, the undersigned, demand the Chief of Police and Police Services Board do the following:

  1. Discontinue this “diversity cruiser” and “trading card” project immediately.
  2. Publicly provide a detailed, itemized accounting of the total cost of this project including, but not limited to:
    a) Number of total hours spent planning and implementing this project
    b) Number of staff, sworn and civilian, involved in this project, along with the number of hours each staff member spent on it
    c) Total personnel cost for planning and implementing this project from conceptualization to implementation
    d) Cost of artist who designed the artwork
    e) Cost to print and apply the decals to all 4 vehicles
    f) Cost to design and print the “trading cards”
    g) Cost to design the website attached to the QR code
    h) Any other related costs associated with this project, including those of the remaining 3 vehicles
    i) Total cost of this project
  3. Donate the total money spent on this project to Black- and Indigenous-led community organizations that provide community-led, culturally appropriate, life-affirming supports and services to residents of Waterloo Region.

The project should be cancelled immediately, and the itemized accounting of the total cost of the project and subsequent donation of these monies to Black- and Indigenous-led organizations and groups should be done by May 1, 2021. 

Photo taken from CTV News Kitchener by Tegan Versolatto of CTV News Kitchener.