Some N.B. municipal police forces making changes after Chantel Moore inquest recommendations
It’s been three months since a coroner’s inquest jury ruled Chantel Moore’s death a homicide, and made almost 20 recommendations for ways New Brunswick and its law enforcement can do better in police interventions, training and equipment.
While the province’s nine municipal police forces have six months to review the recommendations and respond to them, CTV News polled each to see if they are considering, or have already implemented any of them.
Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, was shot dead by a police officer in Edmundston in June of 2020 during a wellness check.
Some of the jury’s recommendations included that all police officers be trained regularly in CPR and first aid, crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies, and scenario and situational awareness training. They also recommended that police have access to less-lethal tools, like Tasers, that those tools are in working order, and they have them with them at all times.
The jury also recommended, where possible, two officers respond to mental health and welfare checks and that police forces do better at relationship-building with First Nations communities, including having a community liaison.
All nine police forces responded to CTV News.
Bathurst, Grand Falls, Miramichi, Saint John and the BNPP Regional Police all sent similar statements, which said in part:
“We have reviewed the Chantel Moore Inquest Recommendations Summary to find some of the recommendations already exist in our policy, standard operating procedures and/or current training, while others, such as the use of less lethal use of force options, are being assessed.”
Kennebecasis Regional Police Force’s Inspector Anika Becker said they’re also reviewing their response to wellness checks and the level of First Aid training to be provided to officers.
Three forces: Woodstock, Fredericton and Edmundston, provided more information.
EDMUNDSTON POLICE FORCE
It was revealed during the inquest that there was only one working Taser the night Moore was shot. Edmundston Police Const. Jeremy Son didn’t have it on him when he responded to Moore’s apartment.
The Edmundston Police Force says it has since purchased an additional Taser, bringing their total to four.
But Chief Steve Robinson said all members are now being “trained and equipped with pepper spray and a telescopic baton, as less lethal tools.”
“A new procedure has been put in place in which members must now complete a formal report every time a piece of equipment is broken or misplaced. This report goes directly to our Deputy Chief for follow-up and action,” he said. “All staff must also be informed of any new policy and operational changes and sign a document attesting that they have read and understood the new policy.”
The force also said it’s reviewing its policies on responding to wellness calls, and looking at making changes.
While not mentioning a community liaison, the force said it has an “excellent relationship with the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation and … plans on working with the Chief and Council on a project to further enhance our collaboration and friendship.”
WOODSTOCK POLICE FORCE
Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward said while some of the recommendations were already in place, the force has gone through each to ask “what could we be doing better?”
He said currently, all officers are first aid/CPR certified. While annual de-escalation training takes place, the Woodstock Police Force is looking to work with the Mobile Crisis Intervention program to help officers adopt better practices when responding to a wellness check or mental health call.
The force has also purchased “simunition training equipment” to train officers in “realistic and reasonable use of force” responses.
Chief Forward outlined several recommendations that are already included in the force’s policies, like police reporting and maintaining of equipment, but said they are working on a policy for the wearing of use-of-force equipment.
They’re also reviewing policies related to wellness checks.
FREDERICTON POLICE FORCE
Fredericton Police Force spokesperson Sonya Gilks said the force is also still reviewing all the recommendations – but outlined how Fredericton is trying to build on its relationship with St. Mary’s First Nation. In an email, Gilks says the force has a policing partnership with St. Mary’s, where a member is on-patrol in the community 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
Three uniformed officers also work directly with the community, attending weekly meetings with the Chief and Council and are the primary contacts with the community.
A cultural diversity committee has been created to “advise the office of the Chief of Police on policing matters relating to cultural diversity…” That includes discussing issues that could include “inter-cultural relation, training, recruitment or other related matters.”
The Multicultural Association of Fredericton, St. Mary’s First Nation, Native Friendship Center, Gignoo Transition Inc., N.B. African Association, city council and government representative – among others – participate in the committee.
CALLS PERSIST FOR INDIGENOUS-LED INQUIRY INTO SYSTEMIC RACISM
On behalf of the Wolastoqey Nation, St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Allan Polchies Jr. reacted to the police responses in a statement.
“It is critical that police forces across New Brunswick make deep changes to ensure no Indigenous person meets the same tragic fate as Chantel Moore,” Chief Polchies said. “Simply buying more Tasers and body cameras will not amount to the substantive change required by the law enforcement community to address the realities of Indigenous people in New Brunswick.”
Polchies says the chiefs have not changed their opinion, adding that the only way to see real change is for an Indigenous-led inquiry to be established into systemic racism within policing.
Criminologist Michael Boudreau agrees. He’s says he is skeptical that the current lack of trust between Indigenous people and police won’t be repaired even if all the recommendations are implemented.
“Even if all of these recommendations are fully implemented, which, at this point, I’m skeptical of. But even so, that's still a small step towards the profound change that is needed for Indigenous peoples to feel, I think safer, when they call 9-11, even if they want to call 9-11. Because of that lack of faith, lack of confidence in the police.”
He said there are some forces taking some positive steps, but much more needs to be done – including on behalf of the province.
“These are modest steps, but you need to really train these officers through with sensitivity training, but also better, profound understanding of Indigenous cultures and societies,” he said.
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