OPP head says building relationships is key to policing protests

Ontario Provincial Police Acting Supt. Marcel Beaudin (right) sits down with journalist Paul Wells (left) to discuss policing protests at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto on Wednesday, Jan. 31. (Emily Cheng/Toronto Observer) 

Communication plays a crucial role in policing protests by building trust and relationships with communities, according to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Acting Supt. Marcel Beaudin.

Beaudin joined journalist Paul Wells for a live podcast taping at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto on Jan. 31. He opened up about his work at the OPP Provincial Liaison Team (PLT) and Indigenous Policing Bureau (IPB) and discussed some protests that the OPP has policed, including the #ShutDownCanada movement in 2020 and the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa in 2022.

“In that pre-event stage, you want to get out and build relationships, become educated, ensure that we are doing everything that we can to be in a position that when stuff comes to the boil-over point, we can ensure that protests are lawful, peaceful and safe,” he said. 

Beaudin emphasized the importance of de-escalating the charged emotions of protesters to ensure the safety of everyone involved. He shared how he would approach protesters without identifying as a police officer and ask them questions to better understand their motives and try to convince them to leave the scene peacefully. 

Dynamics at different protests vary, and “everything is situational,” according to Beaudin, but the importance of being sympathetic, giving enough notice to protesters to clear out peacefully and keeping promises remains the same. He explained that when the police keep their promises to protesters, it is an opportunity for them to gain their trust and confidence. 

There were instances where Beaudin had to engage with Indigenous communities that were unwilling to communicate with the police. Being part of the Henvey Inlet First Nation and raised in a household that “did not trust certain people ourselves,” he said he understands these communities.  

Beaudin started policing in 2003. He has been part of the OPP’s Aboriginal Relations Team, which became the PLT in 2005. He called it his privilege to be able to engage with communities. 

“When I first started as an Aboriginal Relations Team member, I knew at some point in my life that I would want to be in there on a full-time basis,” Beaudin said. “From day one of being a part of that community, I was wanting to be there…. When I got in there, I didn’t realize the impact that you can play in the community.”

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Posted: Feb 6 2024 9:55 am
Filed under: News