Former city councillor John Ellliott said his experience in the Windsor community and with the police service were both factors when he was called to join the Windsor Police Services board, following previous criticism the board lacked diversity.
"I'm always an advocate for positive things... This is important, and I know I have the experience and the knowledge [and] can probably be of some help," Elliott told reporters following his swearing-in Wednesday afternoon.
Elliott acknowledged previous criticisms about the lack of diversity on the police board.
"People are going to talk about the diversity piece and that's fine," Elliott said, noting his tenure with the youth organization Sandwich Teen Action Group. "Myself personally, I think those two things: me being born here, born and raised here and then developing that long-term relationship with the police is basically what I'm interested in."
Elliott has worked with the Sandwich Teen Action Group for 30 years and is the executive director. He's also a former Ward 2 city councillor who served from 2014 to 2018.
He occupies one of two positions on the five-person board that are filled through provincial appointments. Two appointments are from city council, including the mayor and a member of council, and another local appointment is made by the municipality — someone who is neither a councillor nor municipal staff member. Council last made an appointment to the board in January.
"It was no surprise to receive the letter from the Lieutenant Governor, from the province of Ontario that John was their appointee to this board," said Windsor Police Services board chair and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. "We look forward to having him around the table because he understands city issues.
"I can tell you as a city councillor he was very engaged in his ward, he took an … active interest in getting things done in his ward and I'm sure he brings that same spirit to the Windsor Police Services board."
Advocates applaud province 'stepping in'
Natalie Delia Deckard is a criminology professor at the University of Windsor and founding director of the Black Studies Institute. She had applied for a board position earlier this year.
At the time, she told CBC News the fact that someone from a diverse community wasn't selected for the role was "really questionable" because of the importance of diversity in policing.
The police services board oversees services, hires the police chief and deputy chiefs and creates policies.
"I think it's fantastic that the province stepped in and has worked to force the municipal government to reflect its population in a way that they've been unwilling to do," Deckard said.
Camisha Sibblis is an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the University of Toronto with a specialization in Black Canadian studies. She lives in Windsor and is with the group Black Women of Forward Action.
She said she's pleased Elliott was appointed to the board but dismayed it took a provincial appointment to add diversity to the previously all-white board.
"I do think that John Elliott has appropriate values," Sibblis said. "Again though, because he is one voice among many there's no way that we can expect him to represent the entire Black community and all of the very diverse positions they're in, which is why tokenism is such a problematic concept and action."
Elliott said he was ready to delve into the issues facing the police board, including diversity.
"That diversity piece is important. I understand that. And let's as a group, as a service board, let's see what we can do to keep pushing the envelope and making things better ... so it's going to take time but I'm thankful to be a part of it, that I was appointed …I'm here and I'm certainly want to be of help."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.