Constable Richard Warman Aboriginal Community Liaison
Some of the estimated 85,000 Aboriginal residents of Toronto, and a portion of those who come here from other First Nations communities, sometimes experience difficulty dealing with life in a large urban setting. Over time, it became clear that the police did not understand the historical and cultural barriers that prevented Aboriginal people from interacting more positively with police. The result was that Aboriginal community members did not benefit from the full range of police services routinely available to the community at large.
In 1989, an Aboriginal officer with extensive professional and volunteer involvement with his community was assigned to support the Aboriginal community on a full-time basis. The role evolved and expanded and in September 1992, the Toronto Police Services Board approved the establishment of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit (APU). The Toronto Police Service became the first major urban police service in Canada to establish a unit to deal specifically with the issues faced by the Aboriginal community.
Over the years, members of the unit have established a rapport with the community and have dispelled much of the negativism which had existed previously. Through formal and casual contact with community members, Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit officers have worked diligently to gain the trust of the community. The result of this outreach is a two-way educational process by which the community learns about policing services and officers become better informed on Aboriginal customs, traditions, values, historic events, and modes of behaviour.
The Aboriginal Liaison Officer ensures that lines of open communications are established and maintained between the police and community agencies and attends meetings, seminars and workshops to provide consultation and education on police procedures, the role of the police, individual rights and other legal issues.
A constructive dialogue and information-sharing process exists with other police services serving the Aboriginal communities in Ontario and across Canada. The Service also maintains an Aboriginal Community Consultative Committee. Members of the community who sit on the committee work with a Staff Superintendent and a member of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit to discuss issues of mutual concern in an atmosphere of trust and understanding.