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This article was published 15/7/2016 (497 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The apolitical inner-city school principal who pioneered FASD programs in Winnipeg classrooms says she was a voice for kids and parents on the police board. Angeline Ramkissoon helped push for more transparency — such as the public rollout of the police armoured response vehicle at Assiniboine Park — and for a bias-free policing policy that’s in the works.
"It was a challenge," said the provincial appointee to the Winnipeg Police Board who learned this week her term was being cut short by about a year.
"We were breaking new ground," she said.
The new PC provincial government replaced its two appointees to the seven-member board, Ramkissoon and indigenous activist Leslie Spillett, with a woman who unsuccessfully ran for the PCs in the April election, Allie Szarkiewicz, and the owner of an advertising firm, Larry Licharson.
Ramkissoon said her appointment in 2013 had nothing to do with her "ethnicity" or her politics.
"My appointment was because of my educational background and work with inner-city children and parents," said Ramkissoon, who retired as the principal of Wellington School in 2012.
When she was invited to become a member of the new police board, she saw it as an opportunity to help the community.
"I think it is a very serious and important board, and it was new at the time," she said. "I thought I would have input in forming policies and future priorities for the police service. I was not coming with a political agenda."
She said she advocated for equity for parents and kids in the inner city.
"I think what I brought was the public’s point of view — how the public will react to certain policies or actions — and my point of view as a parent, myself and an educator," said Ramkissoon, who has a master’s degree in education and studied administration throughout her career.
Her pioneering work in setting up classrooms to help children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder learn was to make sure their educational needs were being met. "It was a pilot program, and it was groundbreaking at the time."
Ramkissoon, who is of South Asian descent, came to Canada in 1967 from Trinidad, but says that’s not why she was appointed to the police board.
"Yes, I came from an ethnic background, but that was not my focus. I saw myself as an administrator before I saw myself as a minority, but you can’t help but be shaped by your past experiences. A lot of that shapes the character that you bring to the table," said the married woman with two daughters and two granddaughters.
"I am not a card-carrying member of any party," she said. "I’ve never aligned myself with anyone or attended a rally or a meeting," she said. "I don’t want to be viewed as coming with a political stance."
Her role on the board was to be a voice for the voiceless and to make sure it was reflected in police policy.
"The most recent one that we presented was on bias-free policing," she said. "Bias-free policing ensures that all people are treated equally and without prejudice," she said.
"I was able to bring a point of view based on my interactions with parents and the needs of the kids that were or were not being met," said Ramkissoon. "I really depended a great deal on my past experiences," she said. "I had a great deal of say in bringing forward my point of view as an educator, a parent and a citizen."
On the governance subcommittee, she advocated for transparency and that, for example, police explain their motive when stopping someone. The board held public forums with the community, got feedback and issued a revised draft policy, said Ramkissoon.
The draft policy hasn’t yet been formally adopted, spells out that "a police service member who stops someone has to be able to articulate the specific facts, circumstances and conclusions that support the public safety purpose and lawful nature of their decision" to stop someone.
Coming up with the policy on bias-free policing was one of the highlights of her time on the board "and some other policies which I can’t mention" because they’ve not been made public yet, she said.
Board members had a say in the police rollout of the controversial armoured rescue vehicle, she said.
The big, black $343,000 vehicle with tinted bulletproof windows and gun ports raised alarm bells with critics who accused the police of becoming militarized. The police said they needed it to protect themselves and the public.
"It does look scary," Ramkissoon said. But rather than quietly parking it in the garage until it was deployed in a crisis, she said the police service did a good job of introducing it and explaining it to the public.
The police board can take some credit for that, she said.
"One area where the board was able to advise police was to be more transparent about the use of it — when it may be used. That alleviated some of the fear of the public," she said.
Being a board member and working on the governance subcommittee was a lot more work than she had expected with meetings at least once a week but it was time well spent and an education, she said.
"It was challenge being on the board, but I quite enjoyed it."
Her only regret about being removed from the board is that she won’t have a say in the hiring of a new police chief.
"I had hoped I would be part of that selection committee." She’s not bitter about her removal but said it wasn’t handled in a respectful way.
Ramkissoon said she has a lot of respect for the board members.
"The people I met on the board are very strong, credible people," she said. "Each person brought something totally different. The diversity is very, very important because that’s our population, and there should be some representation reflected in the board."
She said she has faith in the work of the police board.
Read more by Carol Sanders.