'Is my skin care racist?' Instagram post by Kamloops Mountie prompts backlash
VANCOUVER -- An RCMP officer in Kamloops is under review after posting two photos to his Instagram page.
The first photo shows Const. Rupert Meinke having a face mask applied. The caption reads: “Black face session. It’s supposed to help my looks. I don’t think it’s working.”
The second photo shows him with the entire face mask on and his caption says: “Is my skin care racist? Micro aggressions matter.”
“When you reference it’s time for your Black face treatment or that you know commenting about Black face or making a remark about micro aggressions, the attitude underlying that post is problematic,” said Chad Haggerty, a former RCMP officer who shared screen shots of the posts on twitter. He added that the content is “something that should be addressed by management at the RCMP or by his supervisors.”
Haggerty was a Mountie for 17 years. He left in 2011 after a conviction and conditional discharge for assault. Haggerty is Metis and Cree from Northern Alberta, and since he left the force has become outspoken about the systemic racism he says he faced when he was a member of the RCMP.
Meinke’s Instagram page is now private, so it’s unclear of the posts still exist. CTV News Vancouver reached out to Meinke for comment and received a reply saying: “Sorry I cannot comment other than it is a skin care product. Take care.”
“Charcoal face masks, no harm, no foul,” said Vanessa Simon, an activist and organizer for Black Lives Matter. “But then you’re posting on your social media for the public to see, asking, ‘Is this racist? Micro aggression matters,’ you’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed by the community and he is getting what is coming to him.”
Simon told CTV News she was frustrated when she first saw the posts, and that they are insensitive and in poor taste.
“It’s concerning to me that there’s someone like that in the police department,” she said.
No one from the RCMP was available for an interview, but a spokesperson said in an email that the posts are from May 2020 and there is a review underway that “will seek to determine further context, as well as a greater picture of the social media profile in question.”
According to Kamloops This Week, as of its December 9, 2013 publication, Mienke worked as the local detachment’s youth officer “with school-age kids who might be headed down a dangerous path.” He also coached wrestling at NorKam Secondary School.
CTV News did not hear back from the school or school district by the time of publication. The RCMP did not confirm whether Meinke still works as the local youth officer.
“This sort of demonstration of underlying mindset, it absolutely typifies the systemic issue in the RCMP,” said Haggerty.
Systemic racism is something that is only recently being acknowledged by the RCMP as a problem. During a time of near-daily protests by the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to change policing, Haggerty said it’s time to limit policing duties.
“They’re called upon to act as de facto social workers and mental health workers and family counsellors, etc., etc. They don’t have the appropriate training for that,” he said.
Those calling to “defund police” would like to see governments take those responsibilities away from police and devote some of their police budgets to increasing the availability of those with proper training.
“We’ve seen police budgets explode over the years and that means money is diverted away from other social network programs,” said Haggerty. “Changing the way police operate will allow for police budgets to diminish or decrease, and that will free up capital for the funding of other programs.”
Meinke also worked as a part-time instructor at Thompson Rivers University. In a statement to CTV News, TRU spokesperson Darshan Lindsay said the school is looking into the social media post.
“Our commitment is to create a university where everyone belongs, where we show our respect for one another through our actions and in our words,” Lindsay said. “While we won’t be providing further comment on this matter, we can confirm the individual has taught courses part-time at TRU in the past."
Lindsay said Meinke is not currently working at the school, as those who teach part-time are on what’s called a sessional contract.
“He needs to be reassessed and go through anti-racism training,” said Simon, who’s suggesting the officer make a public apology to make amends with the community in which he serves.
“I don’t think one should hide behind their profile by making it private,” she said.
Same goes, she said, for the RCMP.
“When you have a chance to talk to the media, take that opportunity, because people are watching and waiting,” Simon said.
Despite all of this, Simon told CTV News she feels things are moving in the right direction.
“There is movement and there is change, and I’m happy to see that, but there’s definitely a lot more work that needs to be done,” she said.