FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Twenty-five groups including community organizations, union locals and advocacy groups have signed a letter urging the Ottawa Police Services Board to oppose the approval of a new police station in the ByWard Market. The station will be up for approval this Monday at the monthly Police Services Board meeting.
The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is seeking approval of its plan to set up a “Neighbourhood Operations Centre” that the OPS claims will “provide the OPS, and partner agencies and services in the future, with a dedicated location in which to strategize, prioritize, and plan proactive and reactive activities to best meet the needs of the Community.” However, the OPS’ own plan that Chief Eric Stubbs will table at Monday’s meeting says the Centre won’t be initially accessible to the public. Instead, the report says public access is being considered “for future years once additional agencies and service providers can be brought on board…”.
The demand for the Centre has largely come from some Byward Market businesses and Mayor Sutcliffe without any consultation with residents of the neighbourhood. The Centre would put more of the burden of their security costs onto the public.
“It’s clear that, for this Board, hearing from the public is optional while saying no to anything the police ask for isn’t,” said 613-819 Black Hub coordinator Robin Browne. “The Board will approve this like they have approved everything else the cops ask for. It’s time to start reimagining community safety by shifting money from policing to things that actually keep us all safer.”
Community members currently face social and racial profiling, increased surveillance, criminalization, displacement, as well as other barriers to accessing social and health services. A carceral response is shortsighted and part of a larger, failed system of punishment, ‘tough on crime’ agendas. The fact is that people who are homeless, people who are disabled, in an altered state or Mad, people who are poor and racialized do not need another police station. They need supportive housing. They need social services and spaces that are open 24-7 where they can use substances safely, where they can access mental health supports. They need supports that are informed by people with living and lived experiences.
If the City is to be a safe and compassionate one, it must divert resources away from the police and towards proven evidence-based interventions that incorporate principles of Indigenization, human rights, harm reduction, social determinants of health and anti-oppression.
“We invite all residents and businesses of the ByWard Market to join us in advocating for better, evidence-based use of public funds that lead to healthier and safer communities for all”, said Farnaz Farhang a representative of the Coalition Against More Surveillance (CAMS). “The time is now for us to shut down police-led, gentrification projects like so-called neighbourhood resource teams in order to reclaim those valuable public dollars for poor and working people, for secure and dignified housing, and for comprehensive social infrastructure."
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