THUNDER BAY — The expert panel appointed to advise the Thunder Bay Police Services Board still has months of work to do, but has already made some preliminary observations.
The panel is chaired by Alok Mukherjee, former head of the Toronto Police Services Board.
As the group prepares for an extended visit to Thunder Bay next week, Mukherjee says it will travel here with a sense that the police service needs to build a working relationship with the entire Northwest region.
"What that means is something that we would want to think about," he said in an interview with TBnewswatch.
"We understand that policing in Thunder Bay is not just simply policing of a city such as Ottawa or Waterloo, or Toronto for that matter. There's a region from which Thunder Bay draws people," specifically First Nations, Mukherjee said.
"It has a unique nature in terms of the services that are required."
The panel arrives in the city on Sunday for consultations with stakeholders and the general public.
Its members spent much of June conducting outreach to stakeholders in advance of several meetings scheduled for next week.
Some of those meetings will take place behind closed doors, but there will be at least two public forums open to everyone.
Residents interested in having their voices heard can email firstname.lastname@example.org to provide feedback and comments.
A spokesperson for the panel says these people will be considered for either in-person or virtual consultations.
The panel has a broad mandate, including:
- reviewing TBPSB's strategic plan and determining progress in its implementation
- reviewing policies, procedures, training, and practices related to internal/public concerns regarding human rights and mental health issues
- consulting with TBPSB, the Thunder Bay Police Service and the community on barriers and effective actions
- reviewing relevant past Ontario Civilian Police Commission and Office of the Independent Police Review Director recommendations and implementation
- developing recommendations for action to TBPSB and the community
Mukherjee said he's unaware of any police service in Canada that has undergone the intense scrutiny the Thunder Bay Police Service has received in recent years through various reports and investigations.
"It's a puzzle...There's again a demand or a call for something significant, fundamentally different, to be done. So we want to try and understand why this is so. What are the barriers in terms of providing the kind of policing, community safety, wellness, service that is needed and that is expected?"
He said the panel recognizes the urgency of the situation, and plans an aggressive timetable in order to develop recommendations within four months after it collects feedback from the city and region.
The public consultation schedule is as follows:
- Tues. July 12 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the West Arthur Community Centre, 1914 West Arthur St.
- Wed. July 13 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Oliver Road Community Centre, 563 Oliver Rd.