The Neptune Four – an update

Take a minute to review “Confidence and trust” from March 13 of this year. Four black teenagers are stopped by police a way back in November of 2011, assaulted, arrested, charged, released, and vindicated. They’ve become known as the Neptune Four after the street on which their homes are located.

The teenagers are suing the police. The two Toronto officers who first came into contact with the young men were subsequently charged with misconduct. The Toronto police disciplinary tribunal for the two charged officers is scheduled for this month, October of 2016, almost five years later!

As matters stood in March, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wanted standing at the discipline hearing. It was a rare request for intervenor status, unprecedented for a police tribunal. The OHRC intended to ensure the tribunal considered racial profiling which it believes is a clear factor in the alleged misconduct.

But, on Monday, July 11, the Toronto police hearing officer ruled that, because the tribunal does not have the ability to grant the human rights’ commission involvement in the process, its request to participate had to be denied. The Toronto Star later ran an editorial calling on the regulations to be changed.

The teens were originally charged with assaulting police, and one who did not want to answer police questions was charged with threatening death and assault with intent to resist arrest. All charges were withdrawn. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director found the youth were not misbehaving and that the stop and subsequent questioning violated their charter rights.

Jim Rankin at the Star has been on top of this story from the beginning. Given how long it has taken to get this far, we shot a note off to him in the summer suggesting we should hope these four former teenagers who are now men will not be sending their own kids to mentoring sessions before this wraps up. His response…… “Amen!”

We shouldn’t be surprised if this hearing drags on for months, with postponements, delays, and legal challenges. One thing we can conclude with certainty. In the end, the City of Toronto and its taxpayers will be turning over a handsome albeit undisclosed and confidential settlement to the complainants.

There’s a point that needs to be made here too in view of incidents like this, and the even more unsettling interactions between police and young black men in the United States. African-American and African-Canadian mothers and fathers are well-advised to “police proof” their sons at an early age.

One of many memorable quotations in the lexicon of Jack Bernstein, the revered head of film for Famous Players during the 1970s and 80s may be suitable here…..”So, to this it’s become!”

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