THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Police Association says it stands by its officers in the wake of two reports alleging systemic racism at an institutional level in the Thunder Bay Police Service and the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and does not accept accusations that its members are racist.
In a statement issued late Sunday night, the Thunder Bay Police Association said it takes the reports issued last week by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and Ontario Civilian Police Commission “very seriously” and “understands the expressed concerns of the Indigenous community.”
It goes on to state that the OIPRD report fails to highlight the hard work of officers and does not mention the high solve rate for violent crime in the city.
“Senator Sinclair references in his final report that TBPS ranks significantly higher than the provincial and national average for solving homicides and violent crime, while having substantially higher call rates for service than any other similar sized city in Ontario,” the statement reads.
“Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are not perfect, and we accept the responsibility for those mistakes. What we do not accept is the repeated accusations that our members are ‘Racist.’”
In his report, Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director, recommended that nine cases involving Indigenous people be reopened due to inadequacies in the the initial investigations.
The statement goes on to read that the Thunder Bay Police Association is calling on the city of Thunder Bay, MP Patty Hajdu and MP Don Rusnak, and MPP Greg Rickford to address what it calls funding inadequacies regarding the Thunder Bay Police Service.
“Senator Sinclair references in his final report that the TBPS is one of the lowest funded Police services in the province,” the statement reads. “The current funding policy stands at 7.9 per cent of the City’s total budget. Mr. McNeilly has made numerous recommendations that request ‘Urgent’ attention for more funding and manpower.”
The Thunder Bay Police Association is also calling on the chief coroner of Ontario, Dirk Hyer, to release the findings of York Regional Police Service’s findings into the deaths of Josiah Begg and Tammy Keeash, two Indigenous youth who were found dead in Thunder Bay waterways in 2017.
According to the Thunder Bay Police Association, there is inadequate support from all levels of government to address high rates of addiction, mental health, a lack of treatment centres, and support for the Indigenous community in Thunder Bay.
“It seems easier to direct blame toward the Police than it is to be part of the solution,” the statement reads. “We are calling on Mr. Fiddler, and all other Indigenous leaders to work with the Police, and the City of Thunder Bay to address the issues raised in these reports.”