When the train goes off the tracks, and nary an engineer’s in sight….what to do, what to do.
“Farewell & Good Luck” from April 1 last year closed the file on policing. There’s plenty of scrutiny and coverage of police governance, while the prison industry is one example of a crisis calling for urgent attention from wherever resources can be found. But, there’s been four police postings since that goodbye, prompted by an apparent unwillingness of police management to either comply with the wishes of the people, or to bring their officers to heal when progressive policies are adopted.
So, we ask the question:
Why is it that men and women who voluntarily sign up with a law-enforcement agency, train to put themselves at risk, make a commitment and swear an oath to uphold and enforce the law of the land, will then turn around and violate the basic human rights of the people of the community to whom they are accountable?
First from Toronto…..”The Office of the Independent Police Review Director might have reported in March that Toronto police strip search those arrested forty times more often than other large police forces in Ontario, but that didn’t lead the Police Services Board to make any changes. As well, the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s report on racism in policing (A Collective Impact) found that black men make up 4.l% of Toronto’s population, yet were complainants in a quarter of SIU cases alleging sexual assault by TPS officers.”
Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 116, September 26, 2019
OIPRD data shows that 40% of people arrested in Toronto are strip searched, 40 times higher than other large forces, although police staff claim it’s more like 35%….still 35 times higher. While a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada proposal recommended a reduction in the use of strip searches, and given there’s no evidence that the large number of strip searches are necessary, a recommendation that would still permit the search of 2% of those arrested (still double the norm in Ontario) was rejected by the police.
“Toronto will continue to humiliate and degrade 40 per cent of those it arrests,” says the TPAC bulletin cited above.
Then to Nova Scotia……Kirk Johnson, a 1990s Olympic boxer has been working to ban ‘street checks’…CARDING….since he was pulled over in 1998 by a white Halifax police officer and had his Ford Mustang impounded….because he was black. Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission agreed five years later with a decision exposing racial bias in the Halifax-area police, and mandating change.
“The Nova Scotia government will permanently ban police street checks, the province’s justice minister said Friday after a retired judge issued a formal opinion that the practice is illegal.”
Toronto Globe and Mail, Saturday. October 19, 2019
Justice Minister Mark Furey had imposed a temporary moratorium on the practice after Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley issued a report in March commissioned by the province’s human rights commission found black people were six times more likely to be street checked. However, groups representing black Nova Scotians said non-white citizens were still stopped and asked for identification in cases where no crime was under investigation.
Retired justice Michael MacDonald’s 108-page analysis concluded “carding”, stopping citizens to collect and record personal information, violates basic constitutional and common-law rights. Referencing the earlier Wortley report recording the treatment of black people by police in Halifax, the justice found a “disproportionate and negative” impact on minority communities, noting Mr. Wortley “did not identify any benefits to street checks.”
The Toronto Star reported on October 22 that Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella will make a formal apology for street checks near the end of November. “This is an apology for much more than street checks,” the chief said. “I think we all know that street checks are part of a larger issue. The more broad issue here is some 200 years of inequalities and injustice that have occurred and the apology will be all-encompassing.”
And now, to Montreal……What’s new with the Montreal police service will be given the honour of place in a posting dedicated solely to this one law-enforcement agency. That’s next time.
Note there are ‘good cops’ in all police services who work in the best interests of the people they serve and respect their badges of office and what they represent. Unfortunately, that formidable police blue wall silences these men and woman, shackling them to a corrupt code that challenges good order and threatens community safety.