On behalf of the men and women from our community who serve, protect, and correct I would like to commend you and Share for being a significant voice of advocacy within our community. It is community organizations and media institutions such as Share that consistently voice and defend the interests and concerns of our people.
I am submitting this open correspondence on behalf of the President, Executive and members of our organization. Our members are Black and other Racialized Police and Peace Officers who have chosen to join the Association of Black Law Enforcers (A.B.L.E.). Our members take their responsibility to be agents of change and advocates for fair, safe and equitable law enforcement seriously. Our words and actions should benefit those who visit, as well as call our nation, province and city home.
It should be clear that in any engagement where the rights and interests of our community are being fought for there will be organizations and individuals that “step up” or “step away” from responsibility. While A.B.L.E. members may not be the loudest, we are ever present and fully engaged in the specific justice and community safety policy issues that affect our community. These matters include but are not limited to; carding and racial profiling as well as diversity recruitment and promotion.
In response to the question posed in the opinion column by Arnold Auguste on May 14, 2015: “What is the Association of Black Law Enforcement’s (ABLE) position on the issue of carding and the over-policing of Black youth in this city?” I can advise that we do not support carding, racial profiling, or the over-policing of Black youth anywhere in this country.
In Canada, we take pride in our international reputation as a multicultural country that is tolerant of other cultures and embrace the concept of diversity as a fundamental legal-moral principle of democracy and social justice. Despite these stated proclamations by our government and our desired aptitude for accommodating values toward the needs of others, studies continue to show that social distance prevails. Social distance in this context is described as the lack of feeling of community of interest or of mutual understanding that exists in our large urban cities, at risk communities, street corners and even in our homes (Park, E., 2006, Bogardus, E., 1926).
Social distance, described here as a lack of corresponding-feeling and understanding toward others, continues to exist in our communities and on a larger scale globally. This situation is especially true when we witness in large cities like Toronto, many young Black males and other diverse members who reside in at risk communities, commonly referred to as priority neighborhoods, are viewed very differently by people who reside in neighborhoods like Rosedale, Leaside and Forest Hill as an example. Can one argue that certain distinctive social class rarely gets to know how the others live (Trovato, F. 2014, Semple, P. 2013)? Theoretically speaking, social distance can easily manifest into outward acts of racial profiling and bias. More specifically, racial profiling that occurs within activities that are practiced in any given groups like policing, or family units, over a length of time contributes to various forms of prejudice toward others (Trovato, F., 2015, Semple, P., 2013, Moorcroft, B., 2014).
To further evidence this occurrence of social distance (i.e. racial profiling) in policing, in a recent court decision (R. V Brown, 2005) involving stereotypical police practices the courts concluded:
“Many police officers who are constantly in contact with the public develop strong feelings and beliefs as to attributes of individuals, based on factors such as appearance and racial background” (R. V Brown, 2005, p. 1)
In discussing this statement by the courts, there is no doubt police officers would take issue with the notion their attitudes and actions are being considered potentially racist by the courts and judiciary.
In an attempt to address social distance A.B.L.E. has actively worked within our community and within law enforcement to address issues of concern. After the initial 2002 landmark Race and Crime series published by the Toronto Star, A.B.L.E. members assembled a special committee and publicly set out our opposition to racial profiling. Our clear opposition to racial profiling was again articulated at the 2003 Canadian Race Relations Foundation Summit attended by key police leaders, and hosted by the Hon. Lincoln Alexander. During the 2005 National Black Police Association conference co-hosted by A.B.L.E. in Toronto, a day long workshop was convened on racial profiling with presentations from Black officers representing Canada (A.B.L.E.), the United Kingdom, and the United States all condemning racial profiling.
Since 2003 and as recently as February 2015, A.B.L.E. members have routinely attended the Ontario Police College to educate all new recruits on the issues of police interactions with our community and specifically racial profiling. A.B.L.E. has worked with, and continues to actively work with, many organizations in our community on a number of law enforcement related issues that impact the community.
I have attached our 2013 presentation to the Toronto Police Services Board “Street Checks” Sub-Committee raising concerns and articulating the negative implications of “carding”. We continue to support the work of the Toronto Police Service PACER committee co-chaired by a very competent community member, and a police member whose integrity is unquestionable. Both “inside and outside” co-chairs are focused on bringing about meaningful change as it relates to carding.
It should be recognized that the issues of carding and other forms of bias based policing and law enforcement are issues that affect our community not only in the “416” but also in the “905” areas of the city. Despite the limiting P3 realities (Professional, Political and Personal) of being a Black police or peace officer who chooses to speak out on issues of fair, equitable and safe law enforcement, know that through the support of our community A.B.L.E. members have the courage to do the right thing despite any associated cost.
Finally, I urge you to review an article written in the May 2015 A.B.L.E Awards Ball magazine by our founding president, David Mitchell in which he articulates our professional realities and community concerns.
Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to answer a legitimate community question, and giving A.B.L.E. a chance to share our “voice” and not be seen as just a “face”.
Vice President – Community Outreach
Association of Black Law Enforcers (A.B.L.E.)