Confidence and trust.

It wasn’t until Jim Rankin’s Toronto Star “How a police stop of four black youth shook a community” was published on August 7, 2012 that the details of a November 21, 2011 incident in Lawrence Heights came to wide public attention. Four young black men – three 15 year-olds and a 16 year old – were walking in the common area of their Neptune Drive housing complex on the way to an after-dinner Pathways to Education mentoring session in a nearby building. They had been stopped and questioned many times before by police, but they’d also recently attended a program where they learned about their rights.

An unmarked van pulled up, and two Toronto police officers with TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) got out, stopped the teenagers and began questioning them. They tried to assert their rights and walk away, but security video footage shows one officer punching one of the four in the stomach, pushing him as he drops to the ground, and as two others walk toward their friend, that same officer draws his gun and points. Backup is called, five cruisers arrive, upset residents and families are seen gathering, and the teens are charged with assaulting police and other offences, all of which are eventually dropped or pieced off.

Parents and supporters went to 32 Division station that night following the arrests, were treated rudely according to Roderick Brereton, one of two youth workers who also arrived at the station to offer support, and were told to leave. “This encounter never should have happened. My client was stopped leaving his home and investigated for trespassing. This was perverse”, said Craig Bottomley, a lawyer for one of the youth.

We met Roderick Brereton (urban rez solutions/take back you world) over lunch at the end of November in 2012. We couldn’t talk about this specific 2011 event or the young people involved of course, but we spoke of our life experiences in Toronto, and the work he and his business partner do in at-risk communities. Roderick is black, and our stories reflected the differences race makes, day to day.

Later, in December of 2013, another Jim Rankin Toronto Star entry told us the teenagers were suing police. Two of the five officers named in the suit were also charged under the Police Act, the same two officers who had originally stopped the four youth.

Now, after all this time, Jim Rankin and Wendy Gillis’s “Rights board wants in on cop hearing” from the March 3 Toronto Star this year, tells us that the Ontario Human Rights Commission wants standing at the disciplinary hearing for the two charged officers.

That hearing is scheduled to begin in October. THAT IS, OCTOBER OF 2016! We had to write:

March 10, 2016

Mark Saunders, Chief,
Toronto Police Service,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

Dear Chief Saunders:

Recent comments from you, your office, and others reference building and restoring public confidence and trust in our police service.

As an example of the challenges this presents, I point to November 21, 2011, on Neptune Drive. Four black teenagers were assaulted and wrongfully arrested by Toronto police when they attempted to assert their rights as innocent citizens going about their business. Video coverage gave this incident due media attention, the latest from the Thursday, March 3 Toronto Star, “Rights board wants in on cop hearing”.

Confidence and trust? Your predecessor in the chief’s office summarily dismisses Adam Lourenco and Scharnil Pais once the file of this interaction and the security tape crosses his desk, and reprimands other officers subsequently involved. At the same time, the City of Toronto initiates discussions with the victims for a financial remedy. This is accomplished and settled no later than the spring of 2012. That’s how it’s done. Why are we still hearing about this more than four years later?

Confidence and trust? I don’t doubt you mean well, but Chief Saunders, please don’t piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining!

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen


John Tory, Mayor,
Office of the Mayor,
City Hall, 2nd Floor,
100 Queen Street West,
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

William Blair, MP,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Mike McCormack, President,
Toronto Police Association,
200 – 2075 Kennedy Road,
Toronto, ON M1T 3V3

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner,
Ontario Human Rights Commission,
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 900,
Toronto, ON M7A 2R9

John Sewell,
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition,
206 – 401 Richmond Street West,
Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

Jim Rankin,
The Toronto Star,
One Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M5E 1E6

Wendy Gillis,
The Toronto Star,
One Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M5E 1E6

Desmond Cole,
The Toronto Star,
One Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M5E 1E6


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