Marci Ien is a multiple award winning Canadian broadcast journalist, currently cohosting CTV’s daytime panel talk show, The Social. The Globe and Mail published her op-ed piece, “Driving while black – in Canada”, on February 26.
In it, she wrote of her third stop in eight months by police while driving. She had dropped her daughter off at her sister’s house for a sleepover on a quiet Sunday evening in mid-February. The streets were unusually empty, but as she pulled into the driveway of her home of the last 13 years, a police cruiser came up behind her with its lights flashing.
She was ordered back into her car when she tried to speak to the officer, and was ordered to close the car door again when she stepped out as he approached. Apparently, she had rolled through a stop sign at her daughter’s school a half kilometre away. The officer asked if she lived in her home even after seeing the address on her driver’s licence and then took her i.d, license, registration, and ownership back to the cruiser for a few moments. He returned to say she was getting off with a warning. Throughout the exchange, she described his tone as alarming. She asked to be ticketed, told the officer of her past experiences with the police and how she did not feel respected, served for protected. “He looked at me, bid me good night and walked away,” she wrote.
We sent her a letter of encouragement:-
February 28, 2018
Marci Ien, The Social,
P.O. Box 9, Station ‘O’,
Toronto, ON M4A 2M9
Re: “Driving while black – in Canada”
Globe and Mail, Monday, February 26, 2018
Dear Ms Ien:
Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to put this on paper. It’s important for people who have a voice to remind us of conditions that regrettably still exist in this country.
You’re not the first person with a high public profile to experience overt racism from our police officers. You’re not the first person with a high public profile to go public with what happened to you, and how it made you feel. But, none of that has seemed to impact for positive change. And, we have a black chief of police. Or, is this because we have a black chief of police?
I do understand your anxiety at the time; still, a public servant trespassed on your property without cause. It’s important to remember two things, at least from the perspective of a white senior citizen like me. First, police college 101 teaches recruits to “get on top”, “stay on top”, be in control. Ergo, be firm in response. You’re really the person in charge. Second, when that police officer got out bed that morning and dressed, your tax dollars paid for his underwear.
Finally, what’s the worst that can happen? Toronto pays for a South Pacific cruise for you and your family.
Keep the conversation going.
Charles H. Klassen
cc Mark Saunders, Chief of Police, Toronto Police Service
The police were quick to react to the article, rejecting her claims of racism. Two senior officers tweeted a justification for the stop, and, along with the chief, claimed the videotape of the incident did not provide the officer with enough light to distinguish the race of the driver. The head of the police union tweeted a reference to a 2005 interview in which Ms Ien showed a cavalier attitude toward the rules of the road.
One important and overriding question which Ms Ien asks is why she wasn’t stopped when the traffic violation occurred, rather than in her driveway a half kilometre later. The question is ignored, but we can be sure the officer in the cruiser was running her plate and knew who she was and where she lived by the time he pulled into her driveway. Why then his questioning?
Take note too that police have been dismissive of video footage in the past as irrelevant, incomplete and distorting the facts when it shows them in a bad light.
Toronto Police communications’ director Mark Pugash concluded his comments on this by saying, “Ms. Ien has made some very serious allegations and we would encourage her to file a complaint.”
We suggested that she had:-
March 12, 2018
Mark Pugash, Director, Corporate Communications,
Toronto Police Service,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3
Re: Marci Ien
Dear Director Pugash:
I’m sorry, but the TPS and the police association counter punches to Marci Ien’s op-ed, “Driving while black – in Canada” come across as floundering knee-jerk reactions to one of this country’s not-so-dark secrets.
As an example, what video footage does or does not show discounts how ambient light varies on vehicles moving through it, and what a naked eye might distinguish. What is most telling about this one February evening though is Ms Ien’s comment, “The stop signal at my daughter’s school is half a kilometre away; why wasn’t I pulled over there? Why did he follow me home? Why, after seeing the address on my driver’s licence did he still ask if I live at my home?”
As for Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack’s response, he’s worth every penny he earns. Like you, he often works diligently to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
File a complaint, you suggested to Ms. Ien. Why, she did, and to the most relevant of bodies….the court of public opinion.
Regretfully, Director Pugash, no sale.
Charles H. Klassen
cc Marci Ien, The Social
Mark Saunders, Chief, Toronto Police Service
Mario Di Tommaso, Staff Superintendent, TPS
Shawna Coxon, Deputy Chief, TPS
Michael McCormick, President, Toronto Police Association