When I was working in the church we had cops come by all the time. At first, they came to hassle the local houseless population, but eventually, they would come and sit and talk with people, like actually talk. They would bring backpacks filled with coffee cards and clothes and warm items for winter, they would come to laugh and hang out because our church was kind of the place to be. For everyone.

This was because we had a lot of young people come and volunteer and several of them wanted to be cops. So they would do the hours they needed for school at the church and they’d get to know the people we worked with, and they took their time learning to understand the way that we speak to each other.

I came to value the times I would see volunteers sitting with a houseless person just sharing a meal or a cup of coffee over the conversation. It was nice to see, people from different walks of life connecting with each other. That doesn’t happen as much at the church anymore because they’ve decided to go a different route, but whatever, back in the day I know that we trained some really great cops.

Today I can’t say that, because the community policing program that brought cops into the community to work with at-risk youth, to volunteer time at shelters, it’s gone. It no longer exists, so once again cops have taken the us vs them mentality and we’re starting to see a lot more shit happening with cops than necessary.

Whenever I’ve had an interaction with police, the only reason I got out of it as safely as I did was that I was able to – had no choice but to really – advocate for myself. But not everyone has those skills, I learned those skills on purpose so I knew how to advocate for others. Knowing how to advocate for others translates to me knowing how to do it to myself pretty easily, but in the 2 interactions I’ve had with cops I can honestly say it saved my life.

In the first case what I needed was space to breathe. I was confused and scared and panicked, and they made it worse by not listening to me in the second case the cops listened and I got to the hospital when I needed to go, which changed everything about. my life.

I wouldn’t have been so lucky if these things had happened in America, because they don’t play around and they don’t give a fuck about your panic attacks, so the chances that I’ll be crossing the border any time soon isn’t likely, but that’s not a reality for my cousins and my aunties.

They can’t just pack up and move to Canada, and even if they could, there’s every chance in the world that Canada is just as dangerous as America, and if you don’t believe me consider the story about Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter who were arrested for trying to open a bank account.

Each of us has to seriously think about the kind of future we want in BC. I look at Surrey Central Skytrain station right now, and I think every single time – nothing has changed. It used to be me hanging out down there watching the dealers sling dope while the girls showed off their pregnant bellies.

It used to be us sitting at the benches getting secretly not so secretly drunk while we waited for dark so we could rush to our variously favorite party spots. Now it’s a new group of kids but they are far more dangerous and far more willing to be violent, things have changed.

The world is harsher and crueler than it was when I was a kid and it was pretty fucking bad back then.

Every generation says that, and every generation is right, we have more to fight for now because not only are we dealing with more intensity in our streets, and in our schools, but we also have covid, aliens, and murderous cops.

Each of us has to decide what kind of government we want in this city and we do have the power to decide. I ask you to remember the corner of 108th and King George ten years ago when it was filled with laughter, color, bright and beautiful, just as the library was before they built that concrete monstrosity we have now.

Things are changing in this city and when we look to our American neighbors, we have their example to show us how to do better. Just a few things for thought I guess.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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