Bonnie Emerson

Bonnie Emerson spoke 15 times across 1 day of testimony.

  1. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    I'm just going to start the time. Good morning, or afternoon. Since I'm in Ottawa, I'd like to start by recognizing that I'm on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. I'm an Indigenous female, community advocate, and as the reason I believe I was invited here today, a police officer. I share all of these things because they assist in shaping my worldview and they're going to impact what I see and how I react. I'm currently a superintendent of community engagement with the Winnipeg Police Service. I'm part of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police CACP, Policing with Indigenous People's Committee, PWIP, and the Social Justice Committee of same. The Committee, as I believe you know, has created the National Framework for Police Preparedness for Demonstrations and Mass Assembly. It's considered a best practice document. And CACP has in the last three years been approved to teach a police liaison training course under the CAPC certificate course for police liaison training where the National Framework is utilized and taught. So I'm going to reference that a little bit later on here as I continue my conversation. My expertise in police and community engagement and police liaison is a lot more granular, I think, than the presentations and the expertise at the table, but I hope to bring some operational perspective and experience to sometimes what is a very theoretical discussion in dynamic situations. Mass demonstrations and assembly are very dynamic. And as you've heard, they're changing in real time. There's no realistic way to prescribe and plan for every possibility. People in protest or mass assembly situations are increasingly less predictable. Experience suggests this is intentional. Disruption is often sought. The larger the impact, the more your underlying interest may be served. The CACP training and PLT trained officers are impartial but not neutral. Impartial to address bias that may exist, it really should not matter what a police officer's personal views are, but not neutral means once safety is compromised, we are obligated to act. The primary role of the police in any demonstration or assembly is to preserve the police, protect life and property, and enforce the law. Police to accommodate rights, it's our job, but it's also to maintain peaceful, lawful and safe assembly. PLT, Police Liaison Team, is more -- or, sorry, is relationship building, but it's also more than just talking. PLT play a role and are trained -- again, I'm talking in the context of the CACP training course -- to test resolve of leadership where leadership is identified in present. I believe there's been some papers and some presentations that addresses that we are often seeing on an increasing nature fragmented leadership, in fact, conflicting leadership in a number of mass demonstration and assembly situations. But consequence and responsibility is communicated to participants and to leaders alike, and that could and should be a role of our PLT trained members. The majority of events this Commission is discussing, through the Commission and papers and testimony, often occur in large cities where municipal police services, such as, where I am from, Winnipeg Police, but when they reach a scale of public disruption and disorder, in many, almost all of the cases, provincial police and federal police are utilised because they have the resources or the mandate to respond. So often it is this municipal to provincial to federal response and coordination that is required, and how do we prescribe it but still allowing the flexibility and adaptation that is absolutely essential in a dynamic situation? Communication, interconnectedness, and training is what I propose. Communication. I watched a little bit of the expert testimony and read the papers. Words used across organisations do often mean different things. Personally, as a community advocate, I often engage with other systems and utilise a certain word, community policing, systemic racism, police liaison, thinking that my audience understands the same thing, and quite often it's different. I'm going to focus just on police liaison. I threw those other two in there just more for reaction. But we, systems and people, use words believing that we are engaging and talking about the same thing. This is not the case across systems, and it's certainly not the case even within systems, and within police systems. Police organisations across Canada have a number of liaisons, community liaison, diversity liaisons, so now we're adding a layer of a Police Liaison Team, and I've clarified a number of times that I mean in the context of the CACP training course utilising the national framework. I believe we need to be clear what we mean, and explain it. So the CACP national framework for a police response is a best practice document. It was based on OPP PLT training, RCMP DLT training. They're liaison training. It went under the umbrella of the CACP because you have the municipal, provincial, federal components who belong under that national umbrella, who can provide a best practice document that allows the flexibility for smaller organisations to adapt within your own community context, but also have the consistent language and interoperability amongst police organisations to know what we're talking about and how we are responding across organisations. Manitoba, Winnipeg just hosted in June our -- the first CACP PLT training course outside of Ontario. We've been planning it a couple of years, and we were finally able to do it this June. We planned it under the MACP, sorry about the acronyms, Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police, model, our members, and we included First Nations policing. So we had a training course with the concept of let's have our police colleagues in Manitoba aware of using the same language, having the training, and also, on a national scale, because we have seen with mass demonstration and assembly that the local goes national, international in some cases, and vice versa, so we have to have that flex and common understanding. There is communication and information shared across borders and boundaries by organisers, participants of mass demonstrations and protest. Many times police and systems don't have this freedom and flexibility. Common training and language would facilitate better information understanding across systems and police. It would clear up some ambiguity and it would actually provide public transparency and accountability that I believe that the public and Canadians expect from their police services. So we have seen movement travel across provinces and municipalities. If information or intelligence received is a risk or a threat, we must respond quickly to address this risk. Allowing organisations to utilise and implement response, with some flexibility to adapt as required for their own community needs, but consistent language and understanding, would, I believe, be very forward-thinking and allow an accountable and transparent response. So the community of practice, that I was anecdotally sharing, as far as the MACP model, and what, sorry, CACP is trying to do, is building a community of practice of consistent language and training, but also incorporate it now across systems. The understanding of what a liaison officer is, in my experience with community policing and community organisations, I think there's some disconnect for what some would consider the soft approach where it's only talking, it's not response or it's not accountability, and that is simply not the case. To that end, I believe in mass demonstrations you've heard as far as Incident Command training, PLT and liaison training needs to be incorporated into that within the police systems so that you have multiple units within police organisations who have an understanding, because the Incident Command model, PLT is only a part, but if your Gold or Integrated Command doesn't have understanding of that, they may not utilise it appropriately. So I started with the role of the police and safety. In the end, safety is the bottom-line. Staying current, understanding constantly shifting dynamic, social media has increased exponentially the volatility, the reach, and the impact of what we're seeing in mass demonstration. Technology has only amplified this. There's evolving factors and means for people to communicate. We have to be able to adapt, and sometimes police tactics in order to respond, we need to have that flexibility. We know there's backlash, increasing backlash against government, police, media, academia in growing numbers, it's on the rise, and I think that needs to be considered from a safety component, not just for the public but also for police officers. Police officers, government officials, high profile individuals are being targeted. How we incorporate our training and our members going out to respond may involve looking at how do we identify them in a way that may not include something like a nametag to recognise that security risk and impact? So finally, Canadian history and our historical context is relevant. It's necessary. We must pay attention to the "nothing about us without us". This means something. Indigenous leaders, leadership, the Canadian experience in context must be taken into consideration, and it has more to do that just the history of police and our Indigenous peoples. It involves all of our systems. So it's significant with police interaction, it also has significance for almost all areas that have been put before the Commission. Indigenous community leadership and governments should be acknowledged and considered as we go forward and make plans. Thank you.


  2. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Well ---


  3. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    So Indigenous leadership I used in the context of a nation-to-nation relationship, and looking at the leadership there’s special provisions, of course, in Canadian law, recognizing and acknowledging our Canadian history. So Indigenous leadership for land claims, and I believe Ipperwash was one of the papers studied and presented where there is a significant context that must be considered in response and in planning in this context. If you are looking at Indigenous land, then the leadership would be their governance structure and model, much like the political leadership is considered in a city context or a provincial context. The fragmented leadership that I referenced for mass demonstration and assembly is within a demonstration or protest capacity where, in one case, it is the evolving nature, I believe, of social media where people are responding, and so they have multiple different underlying interests on why they choose to participate. But it’s also a response to accountability and how the police are responding and warning and holding people accountable. We see adaptation to cause and effect. So having a fragmented leadership and no one person saying, “Yes, I’m organizing this event,” means there’s further requirements and/or work that needs to be done by the police or the groups. So two different things, but I’ll be quick and just say the final is in the context of my work, within community organizations and within Indigenous organizations. The historical context I reference is that there’s lots studying of Indigenous people without that information belonging to, or there’s government or state or police advocating and saying, “For them”. So the “Nothing about us without us” is in reference to if we’re going to be talking about the special provisions in Canadian law, then the people that that law affects should be involved in the discussions.


  4. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Yeah, I just wanted to say that regardless, as far as jumping, like, a solution, the multisystem training standards is optimal. How that is accomplished, if you were to prescribe a percentage, the police executive are going to be aware of this percentage and they're going -- it's just as easily as not asking if you're saying the threshold is 10 percent, then I'll just ask for 5. And so when we know that, it's simply a matter of -- I mean, again, my experience as a municipal service who -- there's a large-scale incident we're going to partner, it makes sense in having a national standard and that flexibility for the experts I think is recognizing the experience. The one part that I didn't cover when I had mentioned training was also the adequacy or adequacy recertification, meaning you can have your training once in a variety of areas, but there's no standard as far as how you maintain it. Recognising that we're one incident away, often we say, of the world changing again, and all the planning and preparation and/or tactics may need to be updated, and so you want that training to be updated as well, at least on some level of basis. I think these dynamic situations require the openness and the community of practice, allowing the people who have the expertise, and not just police but within these systems, to engage in these conversations.


  5. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Okay. Thank you. I would just comment that accountability is important. The community of practice, the issues may be the assessment of the information and how does a, in most cases, a municipal service, be able to adequately assess what the threat is outside of the fact that you’ve already got tens of thousands or more people there. So that would be that building of community of practice and sharing information under oversight rules, community of practice, to be able to share from interprovincially interagency in a responsible, ethical, legal way. Right now, you have many different such communities of practice within police organizations for what I would consider sort of established and understood roles of police. Because of the liaison work, and the organizing, in this mass demonstration assembly is evolving fast, the mechanisms to adjust to it, I believe, need to be. There is, obviously my bias is on the table, I believe extensive oversight of police organizations, and I don’t know of many people who would suggest that that’s not appropriate. It is. So recognizing that, I think it’s now a matter of how do you plan and prepare to be able to effectively make those decisions? And then you look at the question of what would the thresholds be? Because you can’t even make the decision unless there’s going to be a mechanism for police to share information from interprovincially. There is a number, many, increasingly, demonstrations and assemblies that we see are moving from one province to another province, and that the local and the solidarity movements are such that it will affect it. And so even if the underlying interest is local to start with, the exponential factor of technology and social media, a solidarity effect is exponential, and so we need that -- the police need that ability to be effective.


  6. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Okay. Thank you. I would first say that, again, the expectation of what you can expect from the police as far as cause and effect we have seen in the last -- most recently that there is a big disconnect, different understanding, and actually different expectations of police in response to protests. And most recently, talking about in the last winter and spring, it -- I was very surprised to see that a number of my experiences and conversations were based on what the underlying cause of the demonstration and the protests were, and that if people disagreed, go to the bias, with the underlying cause of it, they expected a greater police response, and that the police need to be able to be clear and articulate that the response will be same and "this is what you can expect." Whether it's from, in this context, exclusion zones or pushing them on. And why when you're looking at the totality of the situation, because I had started with PLT training as far as peaceful, lawful, safe, lawful is in there. Peaceful is, and safety, of course, underpins everything that we should be doing, but there is a lawful component in articulating that. I, again, this is me, but with our police they should not be using force on citizens unless we have tried what is reasonable to the extent that we can to mitigate that, and that is the bottom-line. Now, did we communicate that? Maybe it's a matter of having some community practice and training. To answer your questions as far as Indigenous space, I think there is two components. One is you're going to have jurisdictional issues. So Winnipeg has now the largest urban reserve in Canada, and it's going to be developed shortly. So a jurisdictional issue would be what is to happen if there's a police response on what will be an urban reserve in municipal policing in the middle of Winnipeg? How do we respond to that? I think that's a significant new area of -- to be considered because it's in the middle of an urban centre and there is unique considerations. In the PLT training, we do, again, take a nod to the Indigenous history and the history of Canada as part of the training, but it's not meant to be Indigenous exclusive or specific. That cultural component and expectations that police officers educate and inform themselves of the underlying or interspaced reasons for the mass demonstration is expected, in the Winnipeg context, looking again back to where I said Incident Command models within policing, you have often a briefing for large incidents or large, well, incidents where you're going to plan, our liaison teams on a number of incidences it might be -- well, the lead, it might be me, where we're talking about cultural components, to make sure we look at appropriate response to regalia or ceremonial items. But that could be broader to a particular interest or a cultural component or sensitivity that a mass response by policing, not everybody is going to have the same training or knowledge base, so you incorporate the PLT into that briefing, incorporate the local knowledge so that your response is measured, consistent, lawful, safe and peaceful.


  7. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Do we have time?


  8. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Bonnie Emerson. I would suggest that because of the dynamic situation of mass demonstration and assembly, if you look at Scotland Police, they have one police service for municipal and federal. I recently met in the spring with a couple of their liaison members, just looking at their training and best practices. They are experiencing, within that model, much of what we’ve already discussed. And a lot of it is -- from their perspective, is also what we’re experiencing here, where it is the volatility and the training and the intent of, again, the 10 percent of people, organizers, looking to do as much disruption as possible to undermine whatever systems are in place; they’re adapting and moving with that specific person. And just for emphasis, I’m not suggesting that’s the majority of lawful protesters, and -- at all. But I know from a -- I did a Peace Fellowship globally in Thailand three years ago. The global perspective, there is global training for professional protest, and the response they train. It was fascinating, as far as what to do when the police come. These are organized systems. And so the adaptation and that dynamic nature, I think whatever will be put into place, there will be mechanisms and situations where people try to circumvent it. Thank you.


  9. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Yeah, thank you. I agree with Cal. With the -- you have a national framework right now, best practice document to build on. What I understand is, given the complexity right now, it’s already causing, or has caused a significant amount of confusion and different levels of interpretation. If you add another level on to it, I don’t -- I would only think that would exacerbate it. You have a framework that exists right now that is partially utilized, and it becomes the national standard in modernizing and have required training across police services. That becomes part of the Incident Command model that is accepted police services, but I understand there’s different models. So that would have to be clarified. And you have the PLT at the Incident Command table. So you’ve got a framework that is considered best practice exists, you have the flexibility to, or the police service of jurisdiction, to reach out where it’s required, but you have that now the liaison framework at the Incident Command table, which currently right now, that will exist in some police organizations, and there will be different levels of how that’s incorporated in different police organizations. So in Winnipeg, the experience was informally, a couple of years ago, because I was trained in this model, we incorporated it as best practices. We didn’t have the formal training for our members to have a formalized liaison team until June. So the practices that I’m suggesting were incorporated into our model because of the Incident Commanders and now we’re looking at the right people in the right positions to make this happen. So what I would prescribe is that this should be a standard so that you have that consistency.


  10. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    It is clarifying, mandating what exists so that it is consistent. Incorporating in a practice that is utilized and accepted within policing systems, the Incident Command Model is accepted and understood. The liaison component is fairly new, in a formalized way, for police services, generally, even though philosophically I think there was lots of research talking about Peelian principles and how this truly is at the heart of community policing, liaison work, all of those principles coincide. But it’s not a matter of reinventing the wheel. It’s a matter of coalescing it so that we are consistent and it’s easily articulable.


  11. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    But I ---


  12. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    I just wanted to clarify just to agree with Cal and Robert, that currently the CACP model, like our training, the training program isn't resourced, you're right. Right now, the current trainers are from police services, municipal, provincial, and federal, so WPS, OPS, Ottawa or OPP and RCMP, and it's not sustainable for me to go and train multiple organisations across Canada. So it is a question of resource. And going to something like the Canadian Police College would be, I think, appropriate.


  13. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Well, sure. I’ll just say that without getting into specifics, but I think it does speak to training. The Manitoba context, we did have two mass demonstrations at the same time, and they were approached -- I’ll speak for Winnipeg but there was one at Emerson, Manitoba border. With the pre-intervention, with the understanding of PLT in that pre-engagement is not solely for relationship building and waiting it out. It is consequences knowing, eyes wide open, “Here is what your responsibilities are; here’s what the consequences is,” and testing leadership when they’re identified as an organizer of an event. So I agree that -- with Michael, as far as looking at what is the strategies for police officers, why are they -- and how are they trained, as far as looking at what they need to do, and continuously updating that body of practice and knowledge is completely necessary.


  14. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    Well, you prefaced it with anything particularly important. (LAUGHTER)


  15. Bonnie Emerson, Supt (Community Engagement – Winnipeg Police Service)

    I was just going to say thank you. I can’t imagine how exhausted you are, but this is exciting times with great opportunity, so...