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Black Heritage Cruiser Contest – Doing the Right Thing?

In honour of Black History Month, the Halton Regional Police Services launched the “Black Heritage Cruiser Contest”. Their media release states that “Due to the pandemic, we are unfortunately unable to organize or participate in Black History Month events like we historically have,” says Deputy Chief Roger Wilkie. “This cruiser is a unique way for us to highlight our commitment to working with and learning more about our region’s African and Caribbean community, not only during Black History Month, but year-round.” “This wrapped vehicle will symbolize the Service’s commitment to, and solidarity with, the black community,” says Constable David Joseph, who proposed the design project in collaboration with members of the HRPS Black Internal Support Network. “Together with our community partners, we hope this project will help expand our collective awareness and appreciation of black heritage in Halton.” But local grassroots organizations Halton Black Voices and Halton Hills Alliance for Social Change (HHASC), have started a petition on change.org to have the contest retracted stating “ The Black community seeks to address anti-Black racism with real strategies that will advance racial and cultural competency, sensitivity, understanding, and awareness within institutions that have a long history of systemic racism. Therefore, the decision by Halton Regional Police Services to honour Black History Month with a ‘design a Black heritage themed police cruiser’ contest falls terribly short of the real action that is needed to address systemic, anti-Black racism, and racial biases within police organizations, including the HRPS.” Acton UP spoke with the founder of HHASC, Boni Uzoruo, about the contest and petition. She describes the contest as “tokenizing and disrespectful to the communities grieving from acts of violence by police against black lives” and reminds us that “The region of Halton does not exist in a bubble. Black lives have been taken by police in Peel and Toronto and the system is not holding police accountable for their actions. This issue is local, national and international, we are all connected.” While the contest appears to have been conceived with consultation with the black community, Uzoruo points out that “four of the supporting organizations have a vested partnership with them (HRPS)”. The petition states three demands. They are: ◦We demand that the HRPS immediately retract this contest that was conceived without transparent consultations with the diverse Black community. ◦We demand that the HRPS make a commitment to engage with the diverse Black and racialized communities and with the number of Halton grassroots organizations in an effort to build a foundation of trust. ◦We demand that the HRPS work with the Black community through open and transparent consultations and collaboration to create a framework that will address anti-Black racism with real results. Uzoruo questions both the intent and the intended impact of both the contest and the cruiser. We reached out to HRPS for answers to those questions. Sergeant Ryan Smith, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Halton Regional Police Service responded. “This initiative was developed by members of our Black Internal Support Network in consultation and collaboration with many of the African and Caribbean individuals / organizations we work with. These partnerships represent relationships both new and old for our Service, and we are eager for the opportunity to learn from their lived experience, not only through this initiative but also through future endeavours. This initiative was in no way designed to substitute the work that is needed to fix any systemic problems or strained relationships between some of the community and the Police. We know there is more work to be done in this area and of course we are committed to that. The intention of this initiative is solely to highlight and recognize the African and Caribbean history in Halton with community support and input. There is no question that there is additional work to do in terms of bridging the gap between our Service and the diverse organizations and groups who are not yet willing to sit at the table with us. Although we have received concerns from some, we have also received a lot of positive feedback. With that said, I know that feedback from one side does not reflect the feelings of the whole community and I am mindful of this. We are always committed to welcoming any individual or group to engage in constructive dialogue with our Police Service to better understand the needs of our community.” Sergeant Smith also indicated that the “Once wrapped, the Black Heritage Cruiser will be utilized in a non-operational capacity such as at community events or assigned to our Regional Community Mobilization Bureau.” Over 1700 people have signed the petition. “This doesn’t serve the community” says Uzoruo. “It’s the appearance of doing the right thing, without doing the RIGHT thing.” If you agree you can also sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/jeff-knoll-hrps-board-chair-we-oppose-the-halton-regional-police-services-bhm-themed-cruiser-contest?use_react=false.




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