by Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The new Edmonton Police Service northwest campus held a smudging ceremony March 5 to cleanse and provide prayer for the EPS and the broader community it serves.
The ceremony, which represents a holistic view of safety and symbolizes the campus’s connection to the community, was done by Elders Francis Whiskeyjack and Betty Letendre, who also assisted Chief Dale McFee in unveiling a Treaty Six Land Acknowledgement plaque that will be displayed at northwest campus, as well as other EPS locations.
EPS spokesperson Chad Orydzuk says it was important to incorporate the traditions of First Nations and Metis peoples to acknowledge the Treaty 6 territory where the campus is situated in the spirit of reconciliation.
“With this acknowledgement, we are making a commitment to understand and appreciate the history and contributions of the Indigenous peoples, to respect one another, and to move forward with a renewed spirit of friendship and cooperation,” says McFee, who is himself Metis.
“We are embarking on a new journey together. As Canadians, we are all Treaty people.
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Police Service has redesigned its mechanisms for engaging and consulting with the community.
A new Chief’s Community Council will complement the advisory efforts of the recently announced EPS Nîsohkamâkewin Council, and the EPS Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Council.
“Although the previous model provided a platform for communities to engage with police, their needs and demands outgrew the model, and it became clear that we needed to change,” says Yasin Cetin, EPS Community Relations Coordinator. “This is a shift to a solutions-based model, so the new council(s) will not only be helping us take action on issues as soon as possible, (they) will also be holding us accountable to our commitments.”
Cetin adds, “We are looking for talented people from diverse backgrounds who want to make a difference in the safety of their communities. They are going to help us keep the momentum going on the many great ideas and solutions coming out of the community, not only helping us build a better police service, but building new relationships and trust as well.”
Edmonton Police Service recently outlined expanded projects to improve bias awareness and promote equity and inclusion in its approach to policing.
Building on stakeholder engagement initiatives in 2020, including the Commitment to Action, Roadmap: Systemic Review of Issues Facing Indigenous People, and the LGBTQ2S+ Apology Action Plan, the EPS is working on a number of projects to improve bias awareness across the service.
“The focus of the Equity, Inclusion, and Human Rights branch is to continue to build an equitable and respectful police service, and promote accountability and fairness in our approach to policing,” says Insp. Mitchell Flaman, of the EPS Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights Branch. “Our review and continuous improvement of EPS training began well before the events of this past year, and we will keep working to address barriers to equity and uphold principles of inclusion.”
Projects currently underway includes an updated Unconscious Bias E-learning Module and LGBTQ2S+ Awareness Training. An Education and Awareness Knowledge Repository is being built for the internal EPS intranet to provide resources, such as toolkits, guides, job aids, eLearning modules, videos and articles on topics including discrimination, equity and inclusion, Indigenous issues, LGBTQ2S+ inclusion, and more.
The EPS continues to expand on the Police and Community Engagement (PACE) Team program, which supports EPS divisions to build relationships with Edmonton’s culturally diverse communities.
An Inclusive Language Guide is being developed and is expected to be distributed service-wide in early 2021. Community policing modules that are currently being offered to Recruit Training Unit will be expanded to the rest of the service. Among other things, recruit training includes bias awareness, de-escalation training, community safety training and emergency crowd control.