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Police Academy Director describes efforts to combat racism and bias

Recent incidents of race-based violence and discrimination involving police in Canada and the United States are not only at the top of the headlines, they are in our thoughts at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) as well.

First let me be clear that JIBC does not at all support the police actions shown in the video of George Floyd’s tragic death in Minneapolis. Nor do we endorse police tactics that have targeted peaceful protesters in the U.S.

We are, like most other members of the community, concerned, upset and frustrated by the images we are seeing on the news and on social media. I understand that these incidents may cause people to question and criticize police officers on this side of the border, and I wish to address these concerns.

We acknowledge that systemic racism and discrimination exist in Canada. This goes against JIBC’s vision of safer communities and a more just society, and the JIBC Police Academy’s efforts to train officers to treat people with dignity and respect at all times.

The training the JIBC Police Academy provides to municipal police recruits in B.C. includes anti-racism and bias-free training and elements designed to promote understanding of diverse groups, whether based on cultural and ethnic backgrounds, faiths, sexual orientation or gender.

This emphasis on anti-racism and bias-free training is integrated throughout our training program to continually reinforce that officers must behave impartially and without bias. This is incorporated in a number of ways including group discussions facilitated by instructors and through scenario training.

Scenario training is a major component of how the JIBC Police Academy trains police recruits. Many of the scenarios they practise are specifically designed to highlight any assumptions and unconscious biases the recruits may have. Following these training simulations, recruits are required to reflect on their performance. In fact, as part of each debriefing session they are asked, “What strategies did you use, or could you have used, to ensure your investigations were fair, impartial, and bias free?”

The JIBC Police Academy’s efforts to combat racism and bias receives further emphasis through:

  • Crisis intervention and de-escalation training
  • Teaching active listening skills, and the need to treat others with respect, kindness, empathy, dignity, and to be sensitive to others’ values, customs, and needs
  • Scenario training involving vulnerable persons
  • A discussion with a panel of people with mental health issues
  • A presentation by either the Provincial Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services or the Deaf Well-Being Program

Following their field training, recruits are required to make presentations to classmates on a diverse group which was researched during their time out in the field. They learn about Indigenous history including the residential school system. This is further underscored with participation in a Circle of Understanding, a day spent with members of the Indigenous community, including elders, to learn about the history of the Indigenous Peoples and hear the experiences of residential school survivors. This session is held in conjunction with the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society and is facilitated by a police academy instructor who is Indigenous and is also a retired Vancouver Police Department officer.

We continue to review and augment all aspects of our training and we do this in consultation with our community stakeholders. For several months we have been working on changes to the recruit-training program including improving the understanding of other cultures. On this aspect we have been working with the Vancouver Police Department and the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee to collaborate with diverse groups in the community. In addition, we are working with the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General to implement further training to support fair and impartial policing and Trauma-Informed Practice.

The JIBC Police Academy is proud of its four-decade-long history of training police recruits for municipal police departments across British Columbia. That training is continually evolving along with society. We stand with all those facing systemic racism and discrimination and pledge to do our part to one day make it a thing of the past.

Steve Schnitzer
Director, JIBC Police Academy


Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is Canada’s leading public safety educator with a mission to develop dynamic justice and public safety professionals through its exceptional applied education, training and research. JIBC offers internationally recognized education that leads to certificates, diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and graduate certificates; exceptional continuing education for work and career-related learning and development; and customized contract training to government agencies and private organizations worldwide. Our education provides professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel at every stage of their career contributing to safer communities and a more just society.