Thunder Bay Votes: Candidate for Mayor Gary Mack on Crime Issues

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Gary Mack - Candidate for Mayor of Thunder Bay
Gary Mack - Candidate for Mayor of Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Thunder Bay voters will elect a new Mayor on October 24, 2022. As part of our 2022 election coverage NetNewsLedger reached out to all of the candidates for Mayor with these questions on the issue of crime.

We received responses from Clinton Harris, Gary Mack, Robert Szczepanski, and Peng You. No response was received from Ken Boshcoff.

Here are the responses:

  1. Crime is increasingly seen by residents as one of the top problems. What will you do to make our community safer?

The Answer:

  • Enshrine anti-racism as a basis of Thunder Bay policing

  • New police leadership and enforce accountability and oversight at the Thunder Bay Police Services Board

  • New model for first responders, crisis intervention and community policing

  • Specialized investments in elite teams to tackle gangs and criminal outsiders

Build an Anti-Racist Police Service:

The Thunder Bay Police Service has lost the confidence of Indigenous people. The OIPRD Report has described a “crisis of trust” afflicting the relationship between Indigenous people and TBPS. Repeated failures to properly investigate Indigenous deaths, the mistreatment of Indigenous people and the history of colonialism and abuse have led to calls by Indigneous groups for the dissolution of the Thunder Bay police.

The advantage of having a local police department is the capacity to enforce change and have local control to meet the unique needs of our community. I do not believe in giving up on our local police and handing policing over to those outside our community.

As mayor, I will lead the community in building an anti-racist police service. Our police should not only be upholding the highest standards of reconciliation and partnership with Indigenous people but should be active in transforming our city into a beacon of Indigenous revival and opportunity. Indigenous people are a critical part of Thunder Bay’s future and we can not achieve prosperity and safety without Indigenous citizens.

We need strong Indigenous representation at all levels of the police force, from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, senior leadership, right down to front line first responders. We must enshrine anti-racist practices and policies at all levels of the organization. We must implement all of the recommendations from the various investigations into the Thunder Bay Police Services including the OIPRD’s Report – Broken Trust – Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police Service.

A New Police Leadership:

When multiple past and present members of police leadership have come under investigation and the Thunder Bay Police Association openly states its union members lack trust in its leaders, it is even more imperative that policing in our community needs to change.

We can not continue under the ‘business as usual’ mandate and repeat our past mistakes. We need new leadership. We need leadership that is in tune with the needs of our community. We need leaders who have worked on the front-line, have first-hand experience and have navigated the line between the police and the community. We need a mayor who has the courage to do things differently, and do them together.

I have worked on the front lines as a social worker and Executive Director of Shelter House for years. I know first hand the struggles of addiction, mental health and those most affected by crime. I have seen the challenges front line officers face in their work and the types of action that will keep our neighbourhoods safe. As mayor, I will lead the Police Services Board in selecting new police leadership and be a strong voice for change while keeping police accountable.

Additional First Response Tiers

We have one of the most expensive models for first responders one could imagine. About 1 in every 3 dollars the city spends goes to first responders and emergency services. The current city budget continues a trend of unsustainable spending with no end in sight. The vast majority of police calls (between 80%-94%) are for non-criminal or non-violent matters. Traffic stops, mental health issues and alcohol/drug issues represent the bulk of police activities yet can be best handled by other types of trained professionals. Research done at the local, national and international levels has proven that we can have safer neighbourhoods by investing in the right people to show up at the right time. We need to make smart, cost effective choices about how we solve problems in our community.

We need a new tier of first responders that are trained in crisis response, mental health, addictions and conflict de-escalation. These first responders can handle the vast majority of the calls our police service receives. To respond to violent and aggressive situations, we will have our toughest, most qualified police to deal with those calls that require extra support.

By bringing in the people and skills most appropriate to the situation we can get better outcomes while also staying within budget. Appropriately trained and appropriately paid first responders and a new model for crisis intervention are key to overcoming the challenges we face as a community. Safe neighbourhoods are the cornerstone of our future – in terms of where we live, work and play. Having the right training for the right people at the right time is critical to making all our neighbourhoods strong.

Specialized Units to Tackle Gangs and Criminal Outsiders

With the savings we will reap from a new model of policing and first response, we can invest in the high-level police work necessary to defeat organized crime and take back our neighbourhoods from Toronto gangs.

This hard work will be done by dedicated officers who are empowered to eliminate gun crime and gang activity from our streets. With our new approach to first responders we can win the trust of the communities most in need, earn the trust of Indigenous people and build the partnerships that will help bring down these ultra-violent outsiders and make our neighborhoods safe.

  1. As Mayor, what role do you see as far as the police services board, and policing in Thunder Bay will be?

As Mayor, my first duty will be the safety and security of Thunder Bay residents. Everyone needs to feel safe in their home and businesses rely on their customers feeling safe on their streets. As a sitting member of the Police Services Board with the power to set police policy and select police leadership, I intend to enact a program of change, based on my policy platform. I will lead efforts to select new police leadership who share my vision of creating an anti-racist police service, creating a new tier of first responders and who has the right strategy to tackle the gangs and criminal violence in our community.

The problems we face today stem from a lack of leadership and a Police Services Board that utterly failed to hold police leadership accountable. Thunder Bay doesn’t want more of the same and few feel safe walking the streets of our city after dark because of past failures. Candidate Ken Boshcoff had his chance as mayor to tackle crime and failed to make a difference. Peng You took the easy way out and did not step up to sit on the Police Services Board and failed as a leader to keep our residents safe. We need people who will step up to make the hard choices and take true leadership on policing in our community.

  1. With the current board under the provincial administrator, what steps will you take to make policing in Thunder Bay working for all citizens?

We need to take back control of our police as quickly as possible from Toronto based outsiders who have little understanding of the needs on the ground in our city. Having been the Executive Director at Shelter House I’ve worked on the ground and in the streets with our most vulnerable and those who have the most contact with police. As an entrepreneur running a successful local business, I know the costs our local businesses bear because of crime, homelessness and violence. We need someone who has first hand experience and who has real solutions to the problem of crime in our community.

The provincial administrator was put in place because of the epic failures of our political leadership to hold police leaders accountable and to do the job our citizens demand of them. This kind of failure will not be tolerated when I am mayor. I will work with the administrator to implement the much needed reforms our police need. I will instill confidence in our community and with the province that we have leadership that is ready to take back control of our police service so we can move forward with the difficult work ahead. No longer will others determine the fate of Thunder Bay. We will chart our own future with strong leadership so we can create the strong neighbourhoods we all deserve.

  1. Have you read the Broken Trust report?

Yes. It is an incredibly valuable document that everyone concerned with community safety should read. It’s why an important pillar of my campaign against crime is to build an anti-racist police service.

The Thunder Bay Police Service has lost the confidence of Indigenous people. The OIPRD Report has described a “crisis of trust” afflicting the relationship between Indigenous people and TBPS. Repeated failures to properly investigate Indigenous deaths, the mistreatment of Indigenous people and the history of colonialism and abuse have led to calls by Indigneous groups for the dissolution of the Thunder Bay police.

The advantage of having a local police department is the capacity to enforce change and have local control to meet the unique needs of our community. I do not believe in giving up on our local police and handing policing over to those outside our community.

As mayor, I will lead the community in building an anti-racist police service. Our police should not only be upholding the highest standards of reconciliation and partnership with Indigenous people but should be active in transforming our city into a beacon of Indigenous revival and opportunity. Indigenous people are a critical part of Thunder Bay’s future and we can not achieve prosperity and safety without Indigenous citizens.

We need strong Indigenous representation at all levels of the police force, from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, senior leadership, right down to front line first responders. We must enshrine anti-racist practices and policies at all levels of the organization. We must implement all of the recommendations from the various investigations into the Thunder Bay Police Services including the OIPRD’s Report – Broken Trust – Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police Service.