Advancing "WE" in Policing
by Sergeant Tammy Morden
I was recently awarded the inaugural CACP/Axon Equity, Diversity & Inclusion award (individual) for 2020. Admittedly, I had to ask, "why me???" since I know so many other individuals working in the area of inclusion that I admire and look up to. I was asked to be one of the speakers for a webinar for this award, and what follows is a version of what I said. I wanted to share it, not because I think what I have done is so amazing, but because it really isn't – it is something that any organization can do if they want to, and put the right resources into (note I didn't say it takes a lot, just the right resources).
Ernest Hemingway said that it's all about the journey. Well, he actually said, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end". That, I believe is especially true in the work of diversity, equity & inclusion – what I will refer to as "inclusion work". As a result, there is not, nor should there be, an end to inclusion work. It is part of the beauty of it, but also the most frustrating part, because there is not going to be a point where we can say "awesome, that task is done". It needs to be a passionate part of what we do.
My passion for this work comes from both inside and outside policing. One of my favorite books to read to my kids when they were younger was "Oh, the places you'll go" by Dr. Seuss. It always reminded me that as we journey through life, we will go to some great places and some not so great places, but every one of those places will offer us something we can learn. I love to travel – especially the "1 star", hostel, backpacking type of travel that took me into places where I could experience the local culture and life (not that I have anything against the occasional 5 star luxury, but I find there is less to learn there). Learning to say please and thank you in a variety of host languages has taught me the value of not expecting people to adapt to me and my way of thinking and communicating when I am in their home. I have been an avid volunteer, both locally and internationally. I enjoy taking risks, which led to scuba with sharks and skydiving. But first and foremost, I have my family and my work. I got into policing, like so many of us did, to stand up to the bullies of the world – to make life better for those who are unable to stand for themselves in that moment; to hold the perpetrators responsible; and yes, perhaps for the adrenaline that comes with that.
I have been engaged – on the side of my desk, in my cruiser, or even at my kitchen counter – in inclusion work for the Niagara Regional Police Service for over a decade. I have been fortunate enough to make friends in this line of work from around the province – especially through the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police working group on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – who have in turn inspired and motivated me. Some were sworn, some civilian; but all had a passion for this work.
With their blessings, I took thoughts and ideas from them (stole them, really), put a "Niagara" spin on them, and brought them here – I want to be clear here: much of what "I" accomplished has been the direct result of the shared ideas and concepts of others who started down the Inclusion road long before I did. It started sporadically – sometimes with "one-off" and annual
events – like arranging for a group of LGBTQ+ members (and allies) to attend Pride Parades in Toronto. One of the things I did fairly early on was arrange for a road trip to take recruits to see a series of faith sites (a mosque, a synagogue, a Buddhist temple, a Hindu Samaj) and to see one of our Native Centres. It has been colloquially been named the "Diversity Tour". The point
was to highlight that there was, in fact, diversity right here in Niagara, and to allow open dialogue between community members and our Service members. The goal was to normalize conversations and interactions between individuals of often disparate backgrounds. It has grown to stronger connections. A few examples:
Over the years, I developed professional relationships with our community partners that in many cases became strong personal friendships. Like helium balloons, I pulled on those lines of friendship and brought them together. In 2018, I found myself working in Headquarters whereI was afforded more "official" time on the side of my desk to pursue Inclusion work. I also began to plan for my retirement in 2021. And I realized that I was, in many cases, the pivot point for the connections between the Service and our diverse communities. I had taken a lot of joy in forming those connections – after all, I now have an incredible array of friends who are like a microcosm of the world – and I do love to travel! But I hadn't been able to actively create opportunities for those ties to formally extend to other parts of the Service – I needed to create a web of connections so that when I stepped away, the relationships would remain. I didn't want them to fly away and be lost. I brainstormed with a number of those community partners, and I sought out others, and created the Chief of Police – Community Inclusion Council. I have been fortunate to have the absolute support of Chief MacCulloch to do this.
What we ended up with was about 20 community members – most of whom are either the leaders of their respective organizations or communities, or who are the "game changers" in them – who come to the table wanting to work together. What started as an effort to bring ties to the Service, has evolved over the past year or so to be a table that has opened dialogue and understanding between the community and the Service, and maybe equally importantly, across the table with each other. We have speakers from different parts of the Service come in to explain how we work, and answer questions, come up with new ideas – like Recruiting or the School Resource program. We alternate now with presentations from community members who outline what they do in their community – like the Niagara Regional Native Centre, recently. It is not a one way street.
The relationships that we formed in this Council over the last 2-3 years have been instrumental in helping us move forward in the social and political environment that we found ourselves in following the murder of George Floyd and the resulting wave of anti-racism movement that has brought into focus the pain of not only the Black community, but also the Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. It is not that we are immune to what has challenged so many police agencies across the globe, and we recognize that we, too, have a lot of work to do. We do, however, already have significant positive relationships in the communities that are allowing us to have constructive conversations that are less adversarial than they might otherwise have been. I have heard it said that it is much easier to form a relationship in a time of peace than in a time of crisis, and this has been particularly true during this time.
Most recently, I helped form an "Internal Inclusion Committee" made up of members from around the Service who want to help champion inclusion. And we have now connected the two groups to provide greater opportunities for internal / external work. In the end, it is my hope that the connections that I have helped make will continue to hold, grow and expand after I retire. The CACP Global Studies program on Diversity spoke of moving from structural inclusion to authentic inclusion. Joe Couto spoke of being intentional. I will add to the conversation by using a term that I often hear in the indigenous community. As you engage in inclusion, it is more important to do it coming from a good place than it is to do it "right".
My final comment is a reflection of something the Dalai Lama said: "Once a year, go someplace you've never been before". Step outside your comfort zone. If you can travel, check out the local culture. Or go to your local Pride events – whether you are 2SLGBTQ+ or not! Not in uniform, but just to see, and more importantly, to listen. Visit the Sikh temple and ask to watch the worship service – and appreciate the food in the spirit that it is given. The world is an amazing place full of amazing people - Appreciate it.
Sergeant Tammy Morden of the Niagara Regional Police Service is this years recipient of the CACP/AXON Equity Diversity and Inclusion Awards and an active member of WEpolice.ca
Karen Noakes is a retired Superintendent from York Regional Police. Throughout her career, she worked to establish a culture of inclusion to build supports for underrepresented groups in policing leadership. Karen has continued the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversation in policing into her retirement in consultation and facilitation roles, championing people-focused leadership, ethics, professionalism and authentic inclusion.
WE Blog Coordinator: Natalie Hiltz