The appointment of Hamilton’s first Indigenous Police Liaison Officer is being seen as a step in the right direction among the city’s Indigenous population.
The position has been a long rallying cry for equal treatment for Indigenous people when it comes to their interactions with the Hamilton Police.
Stacey Hill, of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, was appointed in a swearing-in ceremony last week and says she hopes to be a bridge between the police and Indigenous people in the city in her new role.
The relationship between Indigenous residents in the city and Hamilton Police became even more strained in 2021 after a video was circulated showing a number of city police officers using what has been criticized as excessive force against Indigenous man Patrick Tomchuk.
The officer involved, Const. Brian Wren, pleaded guilty to assault after he was criminally charged in the incident, which was caught on video at a gas station on the Hamilton mountain, where Tomchuck was thrown to the ground and assaulted even after the video shows he was already restrained.
Hill, who has a 25-year career in policing, said there is a long history of mistrust between police and Indigenous peoples.
In her new role, Hill will continue her work in educating her colleagues about Indigenous history and issues, as well as trying to recruit more Indigenous police officers.
She wore a jingle dress during a ceremony in Hamilton on Friday to welcome her into the new role.
The incident with Tomchuk spurred the creation of the role that Hill will now undertake, after other members of the city’s Indigenous community came forward to say they, too, experienced excessive use of force by Hamilton Police, after learning of the Tomchuk assault.
A consultation circle with the city’s Indigenous population has also been created.
The circle will work with Hill and Hamilton Police to improve the relationship between the city’s police and Indigenous residents.
Hamilton Police Chief Frank Bergen said at the ceremony, “I am confident today that we have stepped on our first path of that long, long journey.”