Divest Durham Regional Police Services and Reinvest in Communities Instead

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The Durham Black Accountability Coalition is a collective of Black residents within the Region of Durham working in collaboration with local organizations and leaders to address systemic anti-Black racism within our respective municipalities and the Region as a whole. In addition to the pervasive plight of anti-Black racism both locally and globally, we as a community remain outraged over the Durham Region Police Service's budget of $214.717 million, which was increased by 3.92% from 2019. For context, the Region approved a 2020 operational budget of $1.44 billion for the year 2020. [See Note 2].

The current global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement is indicative of an on-going call for action needed both globally and locally.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are just a few recent examples of an ongoing pandemic and genocide that is targeting Black communities within America, but they are not alone. Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, and Dafonte Miller are only a few examples of the very same pandemic on this side of the border including the Durham Region.

On December 28th 2016 Whitby resident Dafonte Miller was assaulted by two off-duty Toronto police officers, resulting in severe physical injuries including him losing his left eye. The deplorable way in which the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) has handled Miller’s case only heightens the fact that anti-Black racism is present and at-play in the Durham Region.

With a lack of race-based data in almost all public sectors it is more difficult to quantify the Black experience in education, healthcare, housing, mental health, policing, poverty, and numerous other sectors across the 7 municipalities. However, the reported experiences of Black Canadians tell a qualitative story that is almost identical to that of our Black American brothers, sisters, and non-binary neighbours.

Additional incidents to note:

  • In May 2019, a 16-year-old black teenager was brutalized by two white Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) officers; one police officer executed the same knee on neck technique that asphyxiated George Floyd, while repeatedly and unabashedly punching him in the back as he lay helpless on the ground.
  • In November 2019, an abhorrent image was shared to a Facebook group consisting of serving and ex-police officers and their families depicting two white stick figures wearing police hats, standing over a man with a brown face. One white police stick figure is holding the brown figure down with his foot, pointing a gun in his face. The other white police figure is poised to strike him with a baton. When met with criticism, members of the group stated they were “unrepentant” and “[the whistleblower] should apologize for betraying all of us in this group”.
  • In February 2020, a poster placed on a community mailbox in Whitby read the “Great replacement of European Canadians is not a conspiracy theory”, admonishing the influx of racialized residents in the community.

 

These local and global incidents are reflective not merely of the on-going climate of anti-Black racism that informs systemic practices, but the need to establish community-led, proactive and sustainable solutions to mitigate these occurrences and redress harm inflicted on members of the Black diaspora and beyond. As a community and coalition, we are concerned, angry, and hurt, but we are also committed to advocating for meaningful change. We hope to shift the narrative to ensure that the next generation does not endure the very same experiences of anti-Black racism in Durham.

It is for these reasons that we, the Durham Black Accountability Coalition, call on the Regional Municipality of Durham, Durham Regional Police Services, and the 7 corresponding municipalities within the Durham Region respectively to…

  1. Divest Durham Region’s police funding by a minimum 10% of our $241.4 million policing budget and instead invest $24.14 million into Black and Indigenous community-centric alternatives to policing. The defunding model will support mental health, social/economic well being, crisis intervention, harm reduction, housing initiatives, and de-escalation techniques to support health and safety. [See Note 1].
  2. Provide a full, line-by-line public disclosure of annual budget allocation to Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS). The budget report should also include retrievable receipts and a papertrail of all expenditures. In order to obtain annual Regional funding DRPS must provide professionally quoted justifications and subsequent proof of delivery to the Region for public disclosure. [See Note 2].
  3. Hire a third-party research and investigative company to collect data, oversee dispatch and on-call occurrences, and review all mental health and poverty-related incidents that DRPS responds to. In addition to this research the third-parties shall implement on-going oversight for all dispatch calls made and deemed to be within DRPS’ jurisdiction. [See Note 3].
  4. The immediate assembly of certified mental health and crisis intervention practitioner teams that are hired by, and report directly to, the Regional Municipality of Durham. These teams are to be a part of the dispatch triage system used by 911 operators to better match responding personnel to situations and emergency calls made by the community. They will become part of the Durham Region Police’s mental health response unit as a primary response team. [See Note 4].
  5. For any public entity and service funded by the Regional Municipality of Durham and the corresponding 7 municipalities within the Region, mandatory annual anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism and intersectional harm-reduction training must be included as a condition of funding. These trainings must be sector-specific, community-specific, and include an employee audit for minority, marginalized, and equity-seeking groups both within the entity’s employ AND the Region and municipalities’ employ. [See Note 5].
  6. Immediate public disclosure of the existence and balances of any police settlement/brutality settlement/police peace bonds used by the Durham Regional Police Service. [See Note 6].


These demands and calls to action are an ongoing and ever-evolving culmination of the numerous community needs within the Durham Region as they pertain to anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and systemic racism. 

In signing this petition you demonstrate your support, allyship, and solidarity to these demands and calls to action for our local government officials and public services.

We thank you for your support.

Durham Black Accountability Coalition 

Durhambac@gmail.com

Notes: 

  1. Let’s draw some local parallels; Hamilton’s police force is considering a 20% cut to their $171 million budget, which would divert $34.3 million to community initiatives. In contrast, Toronto is considering a 10% cut that would allot $122 million to these programs. Note that Toronto and Hamilton were used as examples because of both relative population and proximity.
  2. https://www.durham.ca/en/resources/2020-Summary-Durham-Region-Approved-Business-Plans-and-Property-Tax-Supported-Budgets.pdf It is important that DRPS provides to the Region proof of investing public funds and tax dollars.Into categories that they proposed and used in their request for funding. For example, should DRPS request $20 million for additional anti-Black racism training, the provider of said training should provide both a quote and receipt that is provided to the Region for public disclosure. If the citizens and taxpayers of the Durham Region are paying ~30.7% of their property tax into the Durham Region Police Service, they should also be able to see where that money is going and proof that it was indeed used how it was originally allotted.
  3. https://www.durhamradionews.com/archives/113172 - Again, due to the lack of concentrated data on mental health and poverty related calls in DRPS, the only research available is that of independent research studies. Which indicates that, in 2018,  35% of calls made to DRPS were mental health crises. And based on public dissemination of evidence, that depicts police violently responding to an alleged wellness check.The public need for this research, data collection and on-going oversight is clear and long overdo.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAgb9Uiabms
  4. Mental health related calls rising in Durham + https://members.drps.ca/internet_explorer/our_organization/unit.asp?ID=78&Scope=Unit
  5. This will require the creation of a specific commission/entity that will oversee anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism in the Region and 7 municipalities across all major sectors. These sectors will be required to have this training, and the implementation, monitoring, and measurement of success will be the commission’s responsibility.
  6. Police Brutality Bonds + https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/outrage-and-calls-to-defund-police-in-canada-1.4974625 The American police forces operate with separate pools of financial resources that are overseen by their commercial bank and hedge fund partners to settle their police brutality lawsuits.