10 Decolonization and Policing: Exploring Alternatives to the Current State of Policing

Aiden Mcmartin

Title: Decolonization and Policing: Exploring Alternatives to the Current State of Policing

Aiden McMartin


The impacts of colonization have left lasting impacts on policing. This chapter incorporates evidence from the RCMP’s pass and permit systems, the Starlight Tours, the Indian Act, Residential Schooling systems, Indian reservations, and the 1969 White Paper, which demonstrates the diverse ways historical colonial policing practices shaped Indigenous peoples’ current relationships with police. Exploring past colonial examples allows for an understanding of the severity of police interactions. In the current state of policing, de-escalation practices are increasingly being implemented and studied. On the contrary, many communities argue that police should be defunded. Through exploration of current police systems and practices, the pattern is dependent on the community’s needs. Decolonized policing puts the power back into Indigenous communities to create a community-relevant program that addresses their needs. Ultimately, this chapter aims to highlight that a more rigorous nation-to-nation relationship will emerge and persist by allowing policing services and training to be reclaimed by Indigenous peoples, shaped by Indigenous traditions, and democratically controlled by Indigenous values.


Policing is a crucial and common practice in communities. Many people will interact with a police officer at some point throughout their life. The interaction could be a positive experience, such as asking for directions or being assisted by an officer. It could also be an unpleasant experience, such as being issued a speeding ticket or noise complaint. In some cases, however, one’s negative experience with the police can be far more serious. For example, the Canadian Government employed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to implement social policies, such as placing Indigenous youth in Residential Schools and enforcing pass and permit systems (Jones et al., 2014, p. 5). Jones et al. report that these systems are considered “discriminatory, destructive, and paternalistic” in current times (2014, p. 5). In the United States, the death of Eric Garner was filmed by bystanders as he told the police and bystanders multiple times, “I can’t breathe,” as officers restrained him (Stewart, 2018, p. 181). Stewart reports that Garner eventually lost consciousness and died (2018, p. 181). Garner was not the first nor the last high-profile, police involved killing. Other victims of police officers include but are not limited to Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Freddie Gray (Stewart, 2018, p. 181).

Encounters with the police can create lasting impacts on individuals, communities, and the world. In recent years, the world has seen more police killings and police brutality. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noted an “alarming” rise in police brutality and civil rights violations under the COVID-19 emergency measures (Corpuz, 2022, para 3). It has affected people and communities so severely that social movements have emerged in response. For example, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement became so outraged at the killings, that they advocated for defunding the police (BLM Global Network, 2020). The movement discusses the police in great detail, making statements such as: “we know that police don’t keep us safe – and as long as we continue to pump money into our corrupt criminal justice system at the expense of housing, health, and education investments – we will never be truly safe” (BLM Global Network, 2020, para. 1). It is clear that police officers’ actions can leave lasting impacts on people both directly and indirectly involved.

This paper begins by exploring the impacts of colonization in Canada from past to present. A definition of colonization in broad terms will be discussed before transitioning into a more specific discussion of colonization in relation to policing. The Starlight Tours is a major example that will be explored due to its connections to policing, and the impacts it created. Following this section, the term decolonization will be broadly discussed. Then, this paper will directly apply decolonization to policing and provide an overview of what that may look like. This section will utilize Asadullah’s (2021) decolonial tree framework, in an attempt to better illustrate and visualize the process of decolonizing policing. The third section of this paper will provide a focused, detailed discussion of policing and its components. This includes how policing currently functions and what might appear to be an issue. This will lead to the wise practices section, where this paper will spotlight policing practices that are decolonial in nature – such as File Hills First Nations Police Service in Saskatchewan. Next, there will be an overview of an international practice. Finally, this paper will acknowledge its limitations and conclude with a summary of findings and closing thoughts.

Impact of Colonization

Canada is no stranger to harmful colonial practices. Indigenous ways and cultures have been devalued under colonial influence (Monchalin, 2016, p. 103). Eric Wolfe (2006) states that, with settler colonialism, “invasion is a structure, not an event” (as cited in Stewart, 2018, p. 185). In order to constructively discuss decolonization and policing, there must first be an acknowledgment of Canada’s history of colonial practices that have negatively impacted Indigenous peoples. Thus, this paper will now provide a brief summary of such colonial practices including the Indian Act, Residential Schools, the pass system, Indian reserves, the 1969 White Paper, and the Starlight Tours.

The Indian Act was initially a set of temporary laws that, in reality, aimed to assimilate and control Indigenous peoples until “Indians” were fully assimilated in the body politic (Monchalin, 2016, p.109). Monchalin’s example of colonization in the Indian Act is the banning of potlatch ceremonies and the sacred dance referred to as “Tamanawas” – which was enforced by imprisonment, meaning the government attempted to eliminate a cultural practice despite the importance to the identity of some Indigenous peoples (2016, p. 117). This is just one example; the list of injustices that can be found in the Indian Act expand much further, as the Indian Act is a colonial practice in its own right.

Residential Schools are another significant example of colonial impacts. Focusing on Indigenous children was believed to be the best method to achieve total assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Canadian society (Jones et al., 2014, p. 30). Residential Schools forcefully removed Indigenous children from their homes, attempted to replace these children’s traditional culture with Christianity, replaced the children’s traditional language with English or French, and committed many more horrific acts of assimilation (Monchalin, 2016, pp. 126-127). It is important to note that more recently the term “genocide” has been used to describe the impacts of Residential Schools, and rightfully so. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada defines the term cultural genocide as “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group” (2015, p. 1). Many Indigenous children died at these Residential Schools in the attempt to destroy and eradicate this group of people (Monchalin, 2016, p.131).

The pass system attempted to limit Indigenous peoples’ movement by only letting them leave their reserve if they had written permission (Jones et al., 2014, p. 33). An Indigenous person who wanted to leave the reserve had to state their reason for leaving and obtain a signature from an Indian agent (Monchalin, 2016, p. 105). According to Monchalin (2016), this system was a clear attack on Indigenous mobility as any Indigenous person caught outside their reserve without a pass would be taken into police custody and then returned to the reserve. Monchalin emphasizes that this system created a “prison without walls” by controlling and separating Indigenous Canadians from non-Indigenous Canadians (2016, p. 106).

“Indian reserves” are the small amounts of land Indigenous peoples were forced onto after treaty agreements were signed (Monchalin, 2016, p. 103). Monchalin (2016) reports that the government used deception as Indigenous peoples were under the impression that the land would be theirs to pass down to their children for generations, but the reality was that the Crown still owned this land, leaving the Indigenous with no actual land. This would pair with the pass system eventually, which basically just allowed Indigenous peoples to live on the land.

The 1969 White Paper proposal is another example of colonial legislation in Canada that has impacted Indigenous peoples. The Canadian government claimed that the White Paper sought to create equality for those with Indian status (Monchalin, 2016, p. 118). However, according to Monchalin, Indigenous peoples experienced the White Paper as yet another masked attempt to further promote the assimilation of their communities (2016, p. 119). Monchalin states that the White Paper planned to “close the political landscape by unilaterally enacting Indigenous peoples out of existence” (2016, p. 119).

The aforementioned examples provide a brief overview of key points of Canadian history. Policing played a major component in some of those examples. As mentioned in the introduction, the government often used the RCMP to enforce social policies such as the placement of children in Residential Schools and the enforcement of the pass systems (Jones et al., 2014, p. 5). There is also the issue of racialized policing, where broader, systemic inequality can lead to either formal or informal practices that involve racialization (Stewart, 2018, p. 185). When looking at policing from a more positive perspective, Mazower (1993) argues that one of the many reasons historians belittle the significance of policing is due to the fact that successful policing, by nature, is invisible. It will be important to keep this in mind when considering policing in both colonial and decolonial aspects going forward.

An example of racialized policing that took place in Saskatoon is the Starlight Tours. The Starlight Tours refers to a practice dating back to at least 1976, where police officers would drive Indigenous peoples outside of town in winter, then leave them to walk back to town as an inhumane form of punishment (Stewart, 2018). Stewart reports that the Starlight Tours resulted in at least three people freezing to death, one of which was Neil Stonechild (2018, p. 191). According to Stewart (2018), Stonechild was out for drinks with his friend, Jason Roy, the night of his death; after they parted ways, Stonechild struggled to dial the correct apartment number to reach his ex-girlfriend, which led to the police being called. The officers later documented that Stonechild had left the scene before they arrived (Stewart, 2018). However, Stewart explains that the police statement was false as Jason Roy claimed that the officers stopped him while Stonechild was in the back of the police vehicle, bloodied and screaming that the “cops were going to kill him” (2018, p. 188). Stonechild was found five days later, frozen in a field outside of the city, wearing only one shoe (Stewart, 2018, p.188). Prior to this, the family was told he might be in hiding by police, and after he was found, the police handled the investigation poorly (Stewart, 2018, p. 188). Over a decade later, the truth was finally revealed thanks to public pressure, journalists questioning the circumstances, two more deaths, and a survivor of the Starlight Tours who spoke out (Stewart, 2018, p. 188).

Defining Decolonization

The term “decolonization” has many definitions, varying from scholar to scholar. Fanon (1963) argues that, “decolonization is the process by which the colonized liberate themselves politically and psychically through violent rebellion and the forceful seizure of sovereignty” (as cited in Etherington, 2016, para. 14). Etherington defines decolonization as “an action taken by the colonized upon the colonizer” (2016, para. 14). Monchalin (2016, cited in Asadullah, 2021, p. 27) argues that “decolonization is a goal and process to bring about a fundamental shift away from colonial structures, ideologies, and discourses.” Asadullah (2021) discusses the idea that decolonization can be broken down into two micro and macro forms.

Micro decolonization is the practice of “decolonizing one’s mind and body” (Asadullah, 2021, p. 30). According to Fanon, this also includes the “restoration of language” (as cited in Asadullah, 2021, p. 30). This is particularly important when considering the previously mentioned fact that Residential Schools forced children to learn and speak only English or French (Monchalin, 2016, p. 127). Further, Asadullah highlights that the destruction of local language was a tactic of the colonial system, confirming that language restoration is an important step in decolonization (2021, p. 30). Some additional examples included in Asadullah’s view of micro decolonization are the “restoration of singing, drumming, and traditional teachings” (2021, p. 30).

Macro decolonization, on the other hand, focuses on addressing “institutional and systemic change” – including a variety of public services from education to government (Asadullah, 2021, p. 31). For example, referring to policing, Stewart asserts that the Starlight Tours were not a result of a “few bad apples,” but rather a system of structural inequality (2018, p. 187). This is supported by the fact that similar reports have been identified in other parts of Canada, not just the Saskatoon police service (Stewart, 2018, p. 187). This information will assist in further analyzing decolonization in relation to policing.

Asadullah (2021) provides a helpful tool to visualize and understand decolonization called the “decolonization tree framework.” The decolonization tree framework includes four main sections: 1) roots, 2) trunk, 3) branches, and 4) fruits (Asadullah, 2021, p. 28). The roots provide the foundation for this paper’s approach to decolonizing policing, through culturally appropriate policing and de-escalation training. The trunk represents the local community members and individuals who have leadership roles within the community. The branches symbolize tools and practices that non-Indigenous folks can learn from Indigenous communities. The fruit are practices that have sprouted from the roots, trunk, and branches. The goal of these practices is to be socially, spiritually, and culturally rooted in such a way that does not cause harm – now or in the long term (Asadullah, 2021). Below is a table to demonstrate this paper’s attempt at applying Asadullah’s (2021) decolonial tree framework.

Table: 1 Possible decolonial tree framework for policing


Culturally appropriate policing / De-Escalation


Indigenous leader involvement / Decision making


Implementation of Indigenous policing methods


Policing appropriate to unique community with de-escalation focus

Context Specific Definition of Decolonization

Policing in a decolonial context shares similar elements with the decolonization definitions mentioned above. For example, the work of Adamson (2020) provides insight into security studies. Adamson reports that “a decolonial lens on the field begins with the observation that entrenched and deeply rooted social and political hierarchies based on exclusionary practices shape both geopolitics and the production of knowledge, with particular attention to global hierarchies of race, as well as imperial and colonial histories” (2020, p. 131). A decolonial approach to policing can bring positive change to communities. Adamson explains that, “decolonial approaches focus on transforming structures, rather than simply diversifying them, and provide an alternative to more “problem-solving” approaches to inclusion and exclusion” (2020, p. 132).

Furthermore, Porter’s (2016) study on the perspective of current policing discovered that the word “police…has such negative connotations in Indigenous communities that even the perception of collaboration with the state police could result in lack of trust among the client group” (2016, p. 558). The fear of state police points to decolonial roots that must be addressed. Porter follows by mentioning that the lack of affiliation from the state police was a necessary step to enable the building of trusting relationships (2016, p. 558). Porter’s study demonstrates the challenges of attempting to reconcile relationships between Indigenous peoples and the state police (2016, p. 558).

Funding, Defunding, and De-escalation Training

This section will discuss a variety of topics around policing and provide suggestions on how to improve police practices in current society. The first topic to be explored is the discussion of funding the police, which is an important issue surrounding Indigenous policing services. This is because Indigenous policing has been successful in some communities while others have struggled (Jones et al., 2014, p. 113).

Under-funding can be detrimental to Indigenous police services as it limits the ability to complete core duties, such as investigations or emergency-response, as well as non-traditional duties, such as community policing and culturally appropriate crime reduction strategies (Jones et al., 2014). Countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States struggle with providing effective and appropriate police services to Indigenous peoples, even with Canada creating the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) (Kiedrowski et al., 2017, p. 584).

Kiedrowski et al. (2017) highlight that, in theory, the FNPP allows Indigenous communities to establish their own autonomous police services. According to Kiedrowski et al. (2017), this strategy makes Canada stand out from the other countries mentioned, because of the FNPP which is a comprehensive national policing strategy which is fully funded by either the federal or provincial governments. In the 2010/2011 fiscal year, the FNPP increased from $371 per capita to $559 per capita (Jones et al., 2014, pp. 49-50). While this statistic is over a decade old, it suggests how expensive Indigenous policing can be. Without proper funding and resources, any form of policing under the FNPP would struggle to succeed. A decade after the FNPP was implemented, four self-administered (SA) and over a dozen other Indigenous police services disbanded (Kiedrowski et al., 2017, p. 585). While on the one hand, lack of funding could be identified as a major limitation for policing, there are communities and movements such as BLM who argue that policing should be defunded.

BLM is a global organization in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada which aims to eradicate white supremacy and to intervene in violence against Black communities by either the state or vigilantes (Black Lives Matter, n.d., para. 1). BLM calls for policing to be defunded which, not to be mistaken for abolition, is a step toward the reallocation of police funds towards community initiatives, programs, and services (Martin, 2021). This would mean that the police would have a reduction in responsibilities, which would redirect traditional police duties to alternative people and systems (Anonymous, 2020). This change can seem daunting, as officers in current police services are assigned too much responsibility (Anonymous, 2020). For instance, when referring to rural police services, Jones et al. (2014) notes that “…officers are overworked as they perform an array of administrative duties otherwise performed by civilian staff in larger urban departments” (p. 92). Similarly, Martin (2021) explains that, “…we have traditionally incorporated the police into every layer of community duty as an all-encompassing safety net” (para. 21).

Thus, this paper has established two opposing sides to the contentious debate around the future of policing in Canada. Should additional funding be provided to the police so that systems, such as the FNPP, can operate at full potential? Or are groups, like BLM, correct in their focus on police harm and the assertion that funding should be redistributed into alternative practices? Before providing an analysis of the next possible steps, this paper will consider another highly debated policing issue that has contributed to arguments in favour of defunding the police.

As briefly mentioned throughout this paper, such as in the example of Eric Garner, the escalation of police has driven fear into communities. These examples lead to the consideration of escalation versus de-escalation. While officers undoubtedly must be trained and well-equipped to respond to the many dangerous situations they face, the process of de-escalation is also a crucial component of police work.

Emerging research on de-escalation training has recently been increasing. For example, White et al. (2021) conducted a study on officer attitude and behaviour found that “…what officers think about de-escalation likely affects how willing they are to use it” (para. 9). White et al. (2021) did find that both police officers who received de-escalation training and those who did not acknowledge the importance of using a variety of de-escalation tactics. However, the police officers who received de-escalation training put a greater emphasis on the importance of “compromise” as a de-escalation tactic (White et al., 2021). This trend continues with reports of the use of de-escalation with each shift. Prior to training, White et al. (2021) confirm that officers averaged the use of de-escalation tactics once or more per shift; after the training, this average increased significantly.

White et al. (2021) identified the three main de-escalation tactics that increased were maintaining officer safety, compromise, and knowing when to walk away. White et al. (2021) point out that the training which maintains officer safety has resulted in more use of tactics designed to reduce injury or harm to citizens and officers. Not only is this ground-breaking for citizen safety, but White et al. (2021) find that officer safety actually improves as well. In terms of the “compromise” tactic, Todak and White (2019) refer to an officer who recognized that, “sometimes a small adjustment to charges can improve a person’s situation while still achieving justice” (cited in White et al., 2021, para. 27). Finally, White et al. (2021) defined the tactic of “knowing when to walk away” as taking a step back to make space for either another officer who may be better equipped to handle a situation, or for more time to redeploy resources or personnel.

When considering the debate of funding versus defunding the police, the answer is that it depends on the situation. As beneficial as training to de-escalate and funding culturally appropriate police practices can be, it is not necessarily the solution for all. Many communities share similarities, but there are also vast differences. Indigenous patrols (a promising practice that will be discussed later in this paper) researched by Amanda Porter (2016), is a clear example of this in Australia. The underlying concept throughout all of these discussions has been that each community has specific needs. One standardized police system will not work for all communities. Revisiting the BLM movement, their website states, “as long as we continue to pump money into our corrupt criminal justice system at the expense of housing, health, and education investments – we will never be truly safe” (BLM Global Network, 2020, para. 1). The trauma these communities have witnessed and experienced is serious, and the reason they may feel that policing is no longer the answer. Other communities may want culturally appropriate police and therefore, will be in favour of funding and de-escalation training. As Mazower (1993) explains, the idea that successful policing is invisible warrants more recognition. The impact of negative, and in some instances traumatic, experiences spread rapidly and far. Systems that can provide hope for decolonial forms of policing should be uplifted. The next section of the paper will share promising practices around the world that may not be getting enough spotlight.

Wise Practices

Wise Practice 1: File Hills First Nations Police Service

The File Hills First Nations Police Service (FHFNPS) is the first and only self-administered stand-alone police service in Saskatchewan, Canada (File Hills First Nations Police Service, 2022, para. 1). Located Northeast of Balcarres, Saskatchewan, FHFNPS currently provides dedicated police service to five First Nations communities including the Okanese, Peepeekisis, Carry the Kettle, Star Blanket, and Little Black Bear (File Hills First Nations Police Service, 2022, para. 2). The vision of the FHFNPS is “to implement and maintain a level of policing that is culturally sensitive to First Nations values” (2022, para. 3). A component paired with the FHFNPS vision is to work “in conjunction with other established police services to ensure that quality policing is ongoing” (2022, para. 4). Culturally sensitive policing provides an opportunity to utilize and incorporate a more effective and proactive strategy into community policing (File Hills First Nations Police Service, 2022).

Furthermore, building connections is a main goal of the FHFNPS practice. Len Busch, the chief of the FHFNPS, mentions that the police service is able to connect more with the community because it is a smaller police service and that the force is made up of local community members (as cited in Atter, 2020). While the police service has largely been effective, it has its challenges. For instance, Busch mentions that funding is a barrier as, after the events of September 11, 2001, focus has been on national security (as cited in Atter, 2020, para. 21). This means that resources previously in place for relationship-building, for example, have been redistributed into security measures (as cited in Atter, 2020). The focus of how funds are distributed is important for the next example.

Wise Practice 2: Indigenous Patrols

Indigenous patrols, created in Australia, are locally run initiatives that focus on maximizing the safety and well-being of Indigenous youth (Porter, 2016, p. 550). Porter (2016) reports that Indigenous patrols have a vast degree of diversity in each unique area such as functions, objectives, funding arrangements, composition, and patrol style. For example, Porter (2016) highlights that the female Warlpiri elders run the Yuendumu Women’s Night Patrol, which aims to combat alcohol and family violence issues. Porter (2016) explains that Indigenous patrols run with some form of involvement or input from the community in which they operate.

Looking into the everyday operations of Indigenous patrols, four main functions are discussed: 1) transportation, 2) mentoring and building relationships, 3) care-taking, and 4) information-sharing (Porter, 2016). Porter (2016) explains that transportation is the operation where an officer patrols around the community looking for youth ‘at risk,’ then provides safe transportation from one safe place to another. Porter (2016) follows with mentoring and building relationships, which provides a role model that takes interest in the wellbeing of youth and community members. The third practice is care-taking, which is a function that aims to show youth that there are people who care about their wellbeing, both during the day and at nighttime (Porter, 2016). The final practice identified by Porter (2016) is information-sharing, which aims to assist youth in accessing services as needed and refers those who have been neglected by mainstream services.

Wise Practice 3: Manitoba First Nations Police Service

The Manitoba First Nations Police Service (MFNPS), formally known as the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, aims to provide quality and professional service through understanding, honouring, respecting the cultures, beliefs, traditions, and history of their Indigenous people (Manitoba First Nations Police Service, 2020). Located in Portage la Prairie, Southern Manitoba, the MFNPS is a stand-alone service that provides police service to Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Canupawakpa Dakota Nation, Long Plain First Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, Swan Lake First Nation, and Waywayseecappo First Nation (2020).

The MFNPS was changed from Dakota Ojibway Police Service on June 1, 2018, to encompass any Indigenous communities that are added in Manitoba (2020, para. 11). Their goal is to establish itself as the police service of choice for any Indigenous communities looking to explore alternatives to standard policing (Manitoba First Nations Police Service, 2020). The MFNPS has employed forty-six sworn officers and fourteen civilian staff (2020). Doug Palson, the current Police Chief, states “each First Nation within our service area has its own unique culture and traditions and we look to provide a professional and understanding police service that is involved and engaged at all levels” (Manitoba First Nations Police Service, 2020, para. 2). Additional goals of MFNPS include providing a quality and sustainable program that is responsive to Indigenous communities; establishing the best practices possible in management and accountability processes; providing operational support to improve services in the communities, officer safety, and enforcement capability (Manitoba First Nations Police Service, 2020, para. 4). The MFNPS also encourages and seeks Indigenous employees who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement (Manitoba First Nations Police Service, 2020).


As a literature review, the scope of this paper is limited. This paper has discussed the research of scholars, movements, and websites, but has not contributed any new information to the topic of policing. Additionally, the resources cited in this paper are from mainly ‘global north’ and not ‘global south’ researchers. Accordingly, many of the researchers are not from the communities that struggle most with colonial policing. This is not to discredit any of the researchers featured in this paper, but rather to acknowledge the importance of prioritizing the voices of community members whenever possible.


This paper has explored policing in both colonial and decolonial contexts. To begin, this paper provided an overview of colonization as a structure rather than an event. Following this, some examples were summarized to provide the reader with an understanding of the harmful impacts of colonization. Examples such as the Indian Act, Residential Schools, the pass and permit system, and the White Papers were discussed followed by the local police-focused example of the Starlight Tours.

The colonial impacts transitioned into a brief discussion of various ways of defining decolonization. Decolonization was then broken down into two forms: micro and macro. Applying Asadullah’s (2021) decolonizing tree framework, an attempt was made to produce a structured methodology of producing a policing system to all communities that could recognize diversity. The framework consists of four components: roots, trunk, branches, and fruit. The roots would focus on de-escalation and culturally appropriate policing to said community. The trunk would include Indigenous leaders in the communities and get their input and decisions. The branches would be the implementation of Indigenous policing methods, which hopefully would create a better community-police relationship. The final component, the fruit, would be policing that was specific to the communities needs while encouraging the ideas of de-escalation.

The debates around policing are vast. The results confirmed that one police system will not fit all. Some organizations, such as the FNPP, suggest that under-funding is leading to a lack of success, whereas others, such as the BLM movement, call for defunding. This highlighted the importance of considering diversity, and the concept of de-escalation training was considered as an alternative. Research on this topic is limited, but initial results indicate that de-escalation training can improve overall safety for both officers and citizens (White et al., 2021). The existing study identified the de-escalation tactics of compromise, maintaining police safety, and knowing when to walk away (White et al., 2021). Although White et al. (2021) employed a small sample size, their research provides hope that de-escalation can prevent harm and even save lives. The idea that focus tends to be on negative police practices, while positive policing often goes unnoticed, led to a discussion of some promising practices currently in place.

Specifically, the FHFNP service was highlighted for their unique approach that supports the values of Indigenous communities. Similarly, Australia promoted diversity in communities through the Indigenous Patrols program. Finally, this paper discussed the MFNPS which seeks to respect Indigenous cultures and beliefs and provides opportunities for Indigenous peoples interested in pursuing law enforcement careers. Practices like these demonstrate that policing can be implemented in a community in a decolonized way.

Ultimately, this paper has addressed some key points about policing in general. There are clear examples that police are overworked. This can make policing ineffective. With further funding and resources, conditions could improve. The major takeaway from this research is the diversity of the community and its specific needs. No police system will be effective for all communities. Increasing awareness of positive policing systems should be prioritized. Currently, colonial policing gets too much spotlight. Solving the issue of policing is no easy task. The dilemma will not be solved quickly. Discussing topics such as de-escalation or promising practices can show that policing can be decolonial.

Discussion Questions

  • In your community, could the police benefit from more funding? How so? Or could the community benefit from funding being pulled from the current police system? Explain.
  • What are your thoughts of de-escalation training? Should this training be mandatory for all police? Can you think of any flaws this training could have?
  • When defunding a police system, who or what organizations/ resources could take over responsibilities police previously carried?

Recommended Readings

Jones, N. A., Ruddell, R., Nestor, R., Quinn, K., & Phillips, B. (2014, August). First Nations policing: A review of the literature (1st ed.). Regina, SK: Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety. http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/2.1.4878.6725.

Kiedrowski, J., Jones, N., & Ruddell, R. (2017, August 18). ‘Set up to fail?’ An analysis of self-administered Indigenous police services in Canada. Police Practice and Research, 18(6), 584-598. https://doi.org/10.1080/15614263.2017.1363973.

White, M. D., Mora, V. J., Orosco, C., & Hedberg, E. C. (2021). Moving the needle: can training alter officer perceptions and use of de-escalation? Policing: An international Journal. https://www-emerald-com.libproxy.uregina.ca/insight/content/doi/10.1108/PIJPSM-08-2020-0140/full/html


Adamson, F. B. (2020, January). Pushing the boundaries: Can we “decolonize” security studies? Journal of Global Security Studies, 5(1), 129-135. https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogz057

Anonymous, A. (2020). Defunding the police. UCLA Women’s Law Journal, 27(2), 315-319. https://doi.org/10.5070/L3272051567

Asadullah, M. (2021). Decolonization and restorative justice: A proposed theoretical framework. Decolonization of Criminology and Justice 3(1), 27-62. https://doi.org/10.24135/dcj.v3i1.25.

Atter, H. (2020, June 17). Sask.’s only Indigenous police service gives communities ‘a lot more control’ over policing, says chief. CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/

Black Lives Matter. (n.d.). About Black Lives Matter. https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/

BLM Global Network. (2020, July 6). What defunding the police really means. https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-defunding-the-police-really-means/

Corpuz, J. C. G. (2021). ‘Pandemic within a pandemic’: a call to end police brutality. Journal of Public Health, 44(2), e344-e345. Oxford Academic. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab250

Etherington, B. (2016). An answer to the question: What is decolonization? Frantz Fanon’s the wretched of the earth and Jean-Paul Sartre’s critique dialectical reason. Modern Intellectual History, 13(1), 151-178. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1479244314000523.

Fanon, F. (1963). The wretched of the earth. Grove Press.

File Hills First Nations Police Service. (2022). About us. http://www.filehillspolice.ca/index.html.

Jones, N. A., Ruddell, R., Nestor, R., Quinn, K., & Phillips, B. (2014, August). First Nations policing: A review of the literature (1st ed.). Regina, SK: Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety. http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/2.1.4878.6725.

Kiedrowski, J., Jones, N., & Ruddell, R. (2017, August 18). ‘Set up to fail?’ An analysis of self-administered Indigenous police services in Canada. Police Practice and Research, 18(6), 584-598. https://doi.org/10.1080/15614263.2017.1363973.

Manitoba First Nations Police Service. (2020). Message from the police chief. Retrieved from https://www.mfnp.ca/who-we-are/message-from-the-police-chief/.

Manitoba First Nations Police Service. (2020). History. Retrieved from https://www.mfnp.ca/who-we-are/history/.

Manitoba First Nations Police Service. (2020). Who we are. Retrieved from https://www.mfnp.ca/who-we-are/.

Martin, J. (2021). Breonna Taylor: Transforming a hashtag into defunding the police. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 111(4), 995-1030. https://go-gale-com.libproxy.uregina.ca/ps/i.do?p=CIC&u=ureginalib&id=GALE%7CA689168715&v=2.1&it=r

Mazower, M. (1993). Policing and decolonization: Politics, nationalism and the police, 1917-1965. African Affairs, 92(367), 302-303. The Royal African Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a098619.

Monchalin, L. (2016). The colonial problem: An Indigenous perspective on crime and injustice in Canada. University of Toronto Press.

Porter, A. (2016). Decolonizing policing: Indigenous patrols, counter-policing and safety. Theoretical Criminology, 20(4), 548-565. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362480615625763.

Stewart, M. (2018). Racialized policing: Settler colonialism and justice. In M. Hurlbert (Ed.), Pursuing justice: An introduction to justice studies (2nd ed., pp. 180-198). Fernwood Publishing.

Todak, N. & White, M.D. (2019). Expert officer perceptions of de-escalation in policing. Policing: International Journal, 42(5), pp. 832-846. https://doi-org.libproxy.uregina.ca/10.1108/PIJPSM-12-2018-0185

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honoring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the final report of the truth and reconciliation commission of Canada. Retrieved from https://irsi.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/inline-files/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf

White, M. D., Mora, V. J., Orosco, C., & Hedberg, E. C. (2021). Moving the needle: can training alter officer perceptions and use of de-escalation? Policing: An international Journal. https://doi-org.libproxy.uregina.ca/10.1108/PIJPSM-08-2020-0140

Wolfe, E. (2006). Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8, 4: 387-409.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Decolonization and Justice: An Introductory Overview Copyright © 2022 by Aiden Mcmartin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book