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Younger, racialized groups have less trust in police force, citizen survey shows

The 2018 Citizen Satisfaction Survey conducted through the Thunder Bay Police Force used two methods of extraction to highlight discrepancies between racialized and younger groups

OLIVER PAIPPONGE, Ont. - Younger and racialized groups tended to have less trust in local police, data from the new Thunder Bay Police citizen satisfaction survey shows.

The 2018 report extracted answers from two groups: one online, and one in-person.

The demographic makeup of the in-person group featured a much younger and racialized demographic, and respondents overwhelmingly felt a mistrust and lack of confidence in local police force in comparison to the online group.

The findings were presented on Tuesday at a meeting of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board by Lakehead research professor Leisa Desmoulins.

“I think it gives [police] a group they want to pinpoint in terms of building trust. We know younger and Indigenous people had lower trust in this sample,” she said.


Context of study

The new survey method was the first of its kind for Thunder Bay. In recent years, all results were pulled from online surveys. The in-person method was handed down from the Regina Police Service who had under representation of Indigenous people in their respective CSS.

The citizen satisfaction survey is conducted every two years, but was re-designed to gain broader insights into citizens’ experiences and perceptions.

Of the 2,250 people who responded, 212 of them were questioned in-person. Forty-three per cent of that group identified as Indigenous, whereas just nine per cent of the online survey identified as Indigenous.

“Our people aren’t going to go online and fill out surveys for the most part,” board chair Celina Reitberger said. “People need to be comfortable, if they’re going to answer difficult questions they want to be asked by people they can relate to.”

The survey was open from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19, 2018, a span of time which saw many incidents involving Thunder Bay Police.

The OIPRD’s Broken Trust report, which found systemic racism exists at the TBPS at an institutional level, the OCPC report on discriminatory policing in Thunder Bay, and the homicide of 17-year-old Braiden Jacob, an Indigenous youth, all occurred within this period.

The report acknowledges the context, saying the events “may have affected survey respondents’ answers differently than those who took the survey earlier,” the report reads.

Similarities and differences in groups

Both groups say they were treated with a high level of respect in their interactions with police. Eighty-one per cent of online respondents said they were treated with respect, while 80 per cent of in-person respondents reported the same. Similarly, both groups considered Thunder Bay to be “somewhat safe” at the highest percentage when asked how safe they consider the city.

The largest discrepancies occurred with questions centered around trust. When asked if the police service is sensitive to the needs of their group, 47 per cent of online respondents said they strongly agreed, while just 24 per cent of the in-person group selected that option.

Large discrepancies were shown between groups when asked if police treated people fairly, and whether they have confidence in the police force. Some discrepancies ranged by as much as 33 percentage points.

“It was what we already suspected... It underlined what we need to do,” said Reitberger.



Moving forward

Desmoulins recommended Thunder Bay Police include the in-person element in the next survey despite the extra cost that may come with it.

“I really want to see if we get the same kinds of results. If there’s the same similarities and differences.”

Mayor Bill Mauro says having another survey to compare these results will guide the board to act in a more productive manner.

“It’s a snapshot in time. I think it’s fair and it’s good work, but we’re in a position where we can’t extrapolate too much from it because it’s new and we’re not sure how we compare to new municipalities.”

Michael Charlebois

About the Author: Michael Charlebois

Michael Charlebois was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where he attended St. Patrick High School and graduated in 2015. He attends Carleton University in Ottawa where he studies journalism.
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