My name is Rick Robson, Executive Director of the London Police Association.

As you may have heard, a Day of Protest to Defund The Police has been planned for this upcoming Saturday, August 29th, here in London.

Along with demands to cut the police budget by 50%, other demands include removing resource officers from our public schools, ending incarceration for everyone, and disarming our police officers.

At the LPA, we believe these demands are worthy of an immediate and direct response. It is important that you know exactly where we stand.

Let me start by stating unequivocally that Black lives do matter.

Indigenous lives do matter.

The lives of Persons of Colour matter to me and the over 600 sworn officers and over 200 civilian members of the London Police Service that we at the LPA are proud and honoured to represent.

So here are the facts.

Let’s start with the police budget. This year, the budget increase was intended to allow us to hire five police officers in our city.

Why do we need more officers? Because compared to other Canadian cities, London has the 2nd lowest number of police officers and staff per 100,000 residents.

Our city also has the second highest number of reported criminal incidents per police officer in the country.

This is according to the most recent report from the Municipal Benchmarking Network of Canada.

Canadian rates of police per 100,000 still pale in comparison to policing in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Across Canada, we now have the lowest number of police officers per capita in almost twenty years. In London, we now have 15% fewer officers than even the current, already low national median.

Last year, London police officers worked overtime on more than four thousand occasions, because we simply do not have enough officers to match our current calls for service.

And it is killing us.

Two independent reports cite overworked and under-resourced police as the leading causes of police suicide, which occurs at four times the average for citizens.

A decrease of 50% of our budget would do irreparable harm to our community and our members. The Police Service would be forced to lay off over 300 police officers and over 100 civilian members.

Even a decrease of 5% to the London Police Budget would remove at least 30 police officers from our streets. Your streets.

Another demand is the removal of Resource Officers from our public schools.

School Resource Officer Programs are the purest form of community policing.

These officers are not there to give children a ticket for skipping class. They’re not there to serve as security guards.

Instead, they’re coaching sports teams. They’re teaching kids about the dangers in their community, like drugs, alcohol, and human trafficking. And ultimately, they’re helping to keep our kids on the path to success.

A Carleton University study of Peel region’s School Resource Officer program showed that they significantly reduced crime and bullying and produced extensive social and economic benefits estimated at eleven times the cost.

In other words, the evidence shows that School Resource Officers are worth every penny.

Let me be clear: Our members do fantastic work, both on and off duty. By now, they are used to the high level of scrutiny associated with serving their community as police officers. While it is sometimes difficult to manage, we know it is important, and we welcome competent, fair oversight. We simply ask that such scrutiny is founded in the facts and presented in good faith.

Look, I will be among the first to highlight that systemic racism exists in policing and every other social service that supports the marginalized in our country. I have worked hard with local organizations and community leaders to ensure that the London Police Association is a progressive labour organization that protects AND represents our community.

We stand in solidarity with those of you who are outraged and fed up with examples of police brutality, including those rooted in racism.

The LPA has long advocated for, and financially supported, many of the upstream social services — including mental health, addiction, housing, and living wages — that would help marginalized persons coming into contact with the police downstream.

Many of these issues need to be addressed at the provincial and federal level.

If you are looking for allies, I sincerely hope our actions demonstrate our commitment to being counted among them.

When it comes to situations involving one of our members, we will ensure that they receive fair representation during any process or investigation from start to finish. Without such a commitment from their Association, our police officers simply would not be able to do their jobs with confidence.

We at the LPA will continue to stand up for all members of our community, including Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour  the LGBT2Q+ community, and every race, religion, and background.

Defunding the police would not achieve racial justice or improve outcomes for these communities. It would inhibit police officers from keeping our community safe.

Removing resource officers from our public schools would not achieve racial justice. It would remove our officers from the communities with whom they seek to engage and build strong, healthy relationships.

I encourage our political leaders at all levels of government and of all partisan stripes to stand up for the London Police Service and the members of the LPA.

FInally, on behalf of the London Police Association, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for your support, especially as of late. It has not gone unnoticed.

We have received requests to organize demonstrations in support of our police officers.  While we greatly appreciate your sentiment and freedom of assembly, we humbly suggest that you show your support in other ways and continue to observe physical distancing as we enter the Fall season.

We are all in this together and the safety of our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly neighbours, and our front-line workers is simply too important.

Thank you.