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York Region: Building Bridges between the Community and PoliceYork Region: Building Bridges between the Community and Police

York Regional Police (YRP) provides services to York Region, just north of Toronto. This is a community where 71 languages are spoken and nearly 30% of residents belong to 50 different ethnic groups. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that "enhancing the cultural diversity awareness of York Regional Police members" was one of the main goals in the YRP Business Plan for 2002-2004.

Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau

Officially established in 2003, the York Regional Police "Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau" partners with the region's diverse communities to foster understanding and appreciation between police and the people they serve. The Bureau's most important function is the creation and maintenance of initiatives aimed at building bridges between police and the community. This has been accomplished through a various education and community outreach programs.
The Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau organizes a variety of community forums across the region, giving both police officers and community members the opportunity to join in dialogue. These exchanges often lead to the recognition of concerns and insight into the resolution of problems. They also foster a greater understanding between officers and residents.

Community forums held within the most diverse communities sometimes manifest other concerns, such as the potential for hate crimes, or concerns regarding racial profiling. York Regional Police welcomes the opportunity to maintain a dialogue on these important issues. They offer crime prevention and safety tips and provide information on community resources available in the region. They also explain the hate crimes training and sensitivity programs that the York Regional Police has in place.

Representatives from the Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau also make regular presentations in the community discussing both the challenges and the opportunities of policing in a multiculturally diverse community. For instance, the Region's religious diversity is represented by 277 different places of worship. Many of these are situated along Bayview Avenue alone, which is often referred to as the 'Avenue of Faith'. Local citizens are able to enjoy the peaceful co-existence of the many faiths located there.

Members from both the Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau other Bureaus (e.g., Recruiting, Public Affairs) also attended local community events so as to both make greater links to the community and provide officers the opportunity to enhance the development of their cultural diversity awareness.

Internal Diversity, Education and Training

York Regional Police celebrates and helps to foster its own internal diversity. In 2003, the YRP reported a diversity rate of 10.3% among its members, and is increasingly becoming a multicultural police service as over 100 officers currently represent a variety of communities and speak multiple languages.

YRP members also benefit from specific diversity training beginning at the start of their careers with the Recruit Community Insight Program. This initiative, in partnership with cultural and social support organizations in York Region, allows new recruits to immerse themselves into a culture for a period of time, attending community gatherings, meetings and events to learn about the culture, religion and history of the group. They then return to their class and impart what they've learned to their classmates.

In this way, all recruits receive a small portrait of a variety of cultures, allowing them to serve them better as they continue their careers. The program's partners include Pride York, the Hindu Temple Society of Canada, as well as a number of Chinese, Jewish and Black community organizations.

Beyond this, the Diversity and Cultural Resources Bureau continues to serve as a resource for officers on things such as investigating possible hate crimes. For instance, in 2003, the bureau delivered hate crimes training to all members, including sessions on victim vulnerability, reluctance to report and offenders' motivation. In order to combat the incidence of hate crimes, numerous initiatives and police-community partnerships have been developed to fight intolerance and bring perpetrators to justice.
In its 2005-2007 Business Plan, it is a main goal of the YRP to "ensure programs meet the needs of diverse groups". For more information about the current plan and the ongoing work of the Diversity & Cultural Resources Bureau, contact:

York Regional Police
17250 Yonge Street
Newmarket, Ontario
L3Y 4W5
1-866-8POLICE
TTY 1-800-668-0398
Fax 905-853-5810
www.police.york.on.ca

Posted Oct. 20, 2006

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