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Police look at Black experience in Calgary and how to build bridges from within

On Wednesday, members of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) gathered for a community panel discussion focused on the Black experience in Calgary and how the CPS can build stronger bridges.

“We had a really great foundation from our diversity team but we really wanted to focus on racism and how to acknowledge it and address it,” CPS Insp. Avril Martin said.

“We want to break down barriers and make sure we’re an inclusive, safe organization.”

The discussion was hosted by the CPS Racial Equity Office, which was officially established in 2023 following Black Lives Matter rallies held in Calgary and internationally four years earlier.

“These events are so important to ground ourselves in the work that we’re trying to do to move our anti-racism work forward,” Martin explained.

Urick Anthony Manoo, a member of the Anti-Racism Action Committee (ARAC), remembers arriving in Canada from Tanzania in the 70s and the rude welcome he received.

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“I didn’t know what the N-word was or what racism was until I arrived in Canada,” Anthony Manoo said. “I got beat up a lot because of the colour of my skin and lack of English.”

Manoo said his perceptions of law enforcement also followed him when he came to Canada.

“Where I come from, the police are not good. They’re underpaid and so they could be nasty,” Anthony Manoo said. “When I stand by a policeman, I still have fear.”

“Not from the person in the uniform, but the uniform itself.”

Anthony Manoo now works with at-risk youth in elementary and junior high schools, teaching children about making positive choices.

“I’m teaching kids about respecting the law,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s hard teaching the youth when they come from countries where the police are corrupt.”

Anthony Manoo now hopes his work and lived experience will help the CPS tackle racism both internally and externally.

“I want to help them understand youth and how to listen them,” he said. “I want them to try and be a little more understanding of the person and where they come from and what they’ve been through.”

The event was held in partnership with the Youthlink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre, which focuses on crime prevention and public engagement.

“These kinds of conversations are really important and they’re going to make us all more inclusive and stronger,” YouthLink executive director Tara Robinson said.

“Calgary police are making such huge efforts in this direction and it’s so important that we’re all included in these discussions.”

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