Non-Indigenous 'visible minorities' rate Regina police higher than Indigenous, white residents: survey

Regina Police Service Chief Farooq Hassan Sheikh speaks with media on April 30, 2024. (CBC - image credit)
Regina Police Service Chief Farooq Hassan Sheikh speaks with media on April 30, 2024. (CBC - image credit)

The results of a new survey suggest that non-Indigenous "visible minorities" have a more positive perception of the Regina Police Service (RPS) than white or Indigenous residents.

The data is part of the RPS's community perception survey, which was presented to Regina's Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday.

Police Chief Farooq Hassan Sheikh, who was hired at the end of 2023, said he was happy about the survey and the service's commitment to better understanding the public's view of the police.

"[It's] reassuring for me that we've gone out there, we're open, transparent, we sharing that data and then if there is any areas that we need to improve that will continue to do that," said Sheikh.

The survey, which is conducted every two years, found an overall increase in the general perceptions of the Regina Police Service (RPS) since the 2021 survey.

That survey showed a decline in the perceptions of Regina police for the first time in 15 years.

The RPS hired Nick Jones, Adam Vaughan and Alyssa Clairmont, professors and a research assistant with the department of justice studies at the University of Regina, to gather the information. Telephone surveys were conducted with 454 Regina resident between Sept. 6, 2023 and Sept. 29, 2023, leading to a margin of error of 4.6 per cent, 95 times out of 100.

This iteration of the survey had one key change from previous versions. After consultation with community organizations, Regina police asked that the researchers modify the survey process to better understand the views of the city's "visible minority" population. That includes Arab, Asian, Black or East Indian people.

According to the survey results, these respondents were generally more positive in their perceptions of the Regina police, they perceived the police as more visible and reported higher levels of feeling safe in their community. They were also less likely to have contact with the police.

Sheikh gave a variety of explanations for the result. He said that it's "reassuring" that newcomers from across Canada and the world feel confident and trust the police.

"What you're probably seeing, and you've seen the last couple of years, the police service is a lot more diverse," said Sheikh. "Which also helps increase trust and confidence within the police as well."

Indigenous people who took part in the survey reported lower overall perceptions of the police, and also had the lowest perceptions of the police's sensitivity to the needs of their ethnic group, compared to white or "visible minority" respondents.

Some police commissioners inquired about drawing comparisons to other police forces, either on a provincial level or national level.

Jones, one of the researchers, said that because there are no standardized questions and the surveys results are not made public, it becomes very difficult.

"You can't compare oranges and apples, and so if they're not asking the same questions it starts to get very problematic from a comparison standpoint," said Jones.