Police & racism

…..STILL?  HOW CAN THIS BE?

Wouldn’t you think, wouldn’t we all think, that when countless people accuse public servants of wrongdoing, and substantiate those complaints with the support of the Courts and the media, wouldn’t you think there would be a non-negotiable compulsion to act?

Apparently not.

Wouldn’t you think that our elected office holders, responsible for ensuring the men and women who work under them are meeting their mandate, wouldn’t you think they would not tolerate a dilly-dally response or a flurry of window dressing from wayward public employees?

Apparently not.

There isn’t a police force in North America that hasn’t at least paid lip service in the last couple of years to demands for a review and study of race relations.  Many in policing are sincere in their intentions to find solutions to what one American pundit describes as structural racism.  The reference was to the U.S. as a whole, including law enforcement.  What persists there is jaw-dropping, but we are not dancing in a field of clover here in Canada either.

The RCMP’s reputation is far from admirable.  Police services in Quebec City and in Montreal are notorious for their treatment of minorities.  Police practices in Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Halifax are questioned.  Nowhere in this country is any sizeable police organization free of criticism in its relationship with the community.  Sir Robert Peel’s nine principles of law enforcement seem to have been abandoned in the field of operations.

A recent case in point attracting media attention is the conduct of Constable Darrell Corona, a member of the Peel Region Police Service, the third largest in Canada after Toronto and Montreal.  The Regional Municipality of Peel, about 1,250 square km in area with a population of near 1.5 million residents borders the west and northwest boundaries of Toronto and includes the cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the town of Caledon.  The population is highly diverse.  The police chief himself was born in Sri Lanka.

The Toronto Star’s “Peel cop’s gun case tossed” from last December 5 began, “For the fourth time in four years, Peel Regional Police Const. Darrell Corona has been rebuked by a judge in a case where criminal charges have been thrown out due to his interactions with a black man.”  The judge found this officer racially profiled an 18-year-old Black man, breached his “human dignity” and violated his charter rights, whereby evidence of a revolver Corona seized from the accused was tossed and the charges dismissed.  There had been three previous similar incidents where Black men were freed of charges brought by this same officer.

Peel police recently partnered with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to deal with systemic racism and discrimination in the force.  Further, the service is about to introduce a pilot project where officers will collect race-based data during traffic stops.  Will this make for change?  In any case, Constable Corona is still in uniform and that warrants comment.

December 27, 2021

Nishan Duraiappah, Chief,
Peel Regional Police Service,
Mississauga, Ontario

Re:       Constable Darrell Corona

Dear Chief Duraiappah:

For a time in the late 1980s, American media highlighted the number of charges that were dismissed by U.S. courts due to infringements or violations of a defendant’s rights and/or constitutional protections.  Press attention was drawn by the very serious nature of some of these crimes, and the apparent culpability of the accused.  A retired judge whose name I did not record at the time suggested that if all involved in bringing an accused before the courts did their jobs properly then justice would be better served.

You head one of the largest police operations in Canada, servicing among the most diverse communities in the country.  I don’t doubt you and your management team work to reflect the background of its members in the faces of families in Peel neighbourhoods.

Given that, why is Constable Darrell Corona still a member of your force?  Perhaps, as lawyer Alex Mamo told the Toronto Star; “Anti-black racism is so deeply embedded in our society, so when we see these cases of racial profiling by police officers, I think it’s just a reflection of that.”  Just as importantly, he added; “…how many times are these officers breaching peoples Charter rights, racially profiling an individual and illegally searching him and not finding anything, and nothing comes of it.”

I’ve been observing police interactions with the public since the early 1960s.

You can do better.

Where is management in all this?  Where are our elected officials in this?  Where is the executive of the police unions?  Does nobody know how to give an order?  Does nobody know what to do when orders are disobeyed?

Apparently not.

When praise is due……

…..THEN GIVE IT.

“The Liberal government tabled Bill C-22 in mid-February to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people in the justice system.  It would repeal mandatory minimum penalties for all drug offences and some firearm offences, expand the use of conditional sentences (i.e. house arrest) for a number of crimes and allow police and prosecutors to divert drug possession charges away from the courts.”

That began “Prisons & Bill C-22” from August 1 of last year.  The government had taken years to get this before the House, only to have it die when the election was called last fall.  Advocates had much to admire and much to criticize in this proposed legislation, but it was a important first step as Justice Minister David Lametti underscored.  We joined the chorus to chastise the government and Mr. Lametti for not moving the bill through Parliament much earlier.  As Vice President Daniel Brown of Ontario’s Criminal Lawyers’ Association said at the time, “anyone watching would wonder whether or not (C-22) was a hollow promise…..”

On Tuesday, December 7 last month, Bill C-22 was revived as Bill C-5 and without any changes to add stronger or additional reforms.  Voices echoed earlier complaints that as good as this was, there was still much more that could have been done.  What’s true as well is Mr. Lametti’s “important first step” took so many years to materialize, one can only imagine when an important second step might come along. 

Kudos to all who stepped up to call out the government.  The need for noise isn’t going away any time in the foreseeable future.  But compliments are due to Mr. Lametti for doing as he said he intended to do when the election was called.

December 9, 2021

The Honourable David Lametti,
Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      Bill C-22 reincarnated

Dear Minister Lametti:

Thank you for bringing Bill C-5 to the House.

As you’ve said previously, this is an “important first step”, and once C-5 becomes law, your office can look to make even greater headway with reforms to our justice system. 

I encourage you to look past the medievalists among the Conservative Members who may never learn that the prison industry they champion when given the opportunity is not a correctional system that benefits the community.  Their vision is quite simply regressive and punitive.

Best wishes in the work you have ahead.

Be grateful for progress….any progress.