By TOM GODFREY
Thank goodness for the many ardent supporters and activists in our community for keeping alive through protests a plan by Toronto police to water down a controversial racial profiling and carding policy.
The Community Engagements Policy is the last item on the agenda at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting this week. It follows reports on police spending, TTC patrols and funding of yet another survey on the community called the Black Experience.
Many people expect little to proceed on this carding policy, which has already been deferred twice. Some 30 community organizations gave deputations opposing the proposal at a Board meeting earlier this month.
Police Chief Bill Blair, as my Share colleague Patrick Hunter pointed out last week, has given a finger to the Black community as he rides into the sunset.
Since April of last year, Blair has ignored the findings of a PACER report; a directive by the Board to implement the policy; results of a satisfaction survey of 31 Division and community hearings that were held across the city.
Next Saturday, on April 25, will be his last day as the City’s top cop. He no doubt has left his officers in good shape and well looked after. Only if he did the same for the Black community, to which he regularly pays lip service.
It is under Blair’s watch, we must remember, that the infamous “kettling” of hundreds of residents at the G20 Summit in 2010 took place. He is also responsible for installing the Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy or TAVIS officers in at-risk areas, where they are accused of racial profiling and targeting residents.
Blair, who will be leaving the force with a tidy nest egg, waited until the very last minute to dump the failed policy on the lap of a new chief. His successor has to deal again with the whole profiling and carding mess.
His replacement will now have to spend most of his or her time on the contentious and thankless police profiling file.
The Board, whose members don’t even return phone calls these days, is paralyzed by the gridlock and its business appears to be run by the police, not Chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee, who has been trying hard though faced with mounting opposition.
Even Mayor John Tory, who is riding high in popularity polls, has been tap-dancing around the issue and leaving the hard decisions for his friend Blair to make.
It has been a long struggle by the community to try and have a workable policy in place that is acceptable to all and not ramrodded down our throats by police leaders and the Toronto Police Association.
Many community leaders will tell you the policy has many flaws. Police will still be able to flag Black youth for stops and obtain information and not provide a receipt with their name or the reason for the stop.
Then, how is all that data being used or how long will it be stored by police?
Our community has been here long before Blair, Dr. Mukherjee and Tory and will continue to be here thriving long after they are gone.
We have in the past demonstrated in the cold against apartheid in South Africa.
We were there again to protest the Toronto police shootings of Black men like Buddy Evans, Albert Johnson, Lester Donaldson, Michael Wade Lawson, Anthony Bramwell and so many others.
And how many marches did we endure to demand and finally obtain an oversight body that became the Special Investigations Unit. The marches continue today to protest the killings of young men by White police in Ferguson and other U.S. cities.
The faces behind the uniform may be changing in colour but the shoddy treatment against those being policed in our diverse communities seems to have changed very little.