By TOM GODFREY
Protests planned for outside police headquarters last week fizzled as a long-awaited meeting by the Toronto Police Services Board to address community contacts was cancelled.
Many members of the community are outraged that the much-anticipated meeting was called off late Friday after months of hearings and lobbying and with Chief Bill Blair set to leave office next month.
Many are skeptical about the process and are asking why such an important policy for the community is being hammered out behind closed doors and without regular updates.
The Board, in a release, said the meeting was cancelled because former Chief Justice of Ontario Warren Winkler was brought in to help with the mediation process.
Winkler, the Board and the chief are “continuing to work diligently to resolve outstanding issues concerning the Community Contacts policy,” the release said.
“The Board will make no further comments during the mediation.
“A media blackout is in effect.”
It said the community will be informed of developments regarding the policy at the end of the mediation process.
“The Board appreciates the patience shown by all concerned as the Board and the chief continue their work on the development of leading practices around Community Contacts,” the release stated.
Winkler, who was appointed a Chief Justice in 2007, is a former Regional Senior Judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for the Toronto Region.
A disappointed Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee, said Toronto police are a law unto themselves.
“The chief was insubordinate to the Board and the Board is powerless to discipline him,” Gilliam told Share. “They (police) do what they please irrespective of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Human Rights Code.”
Gilliam, and others, claim Blair has been “defying the policy and the Board since last April.
“He finishes in April, are they going to fire him?” he asked. “Who is his boss? Is it the Chair of the Board, or does he have a boss?”
Gilliam and others who had taken part in several hearings, had planned to attend the meeting to find out about the new policy.
“This is a major disappointment for the community,” he said. “When have you ever heard of an employer negotiating with an insubordinate employee that refuses to follow policy and directives?”
Lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa said the hiring of a mediator was not needed and is another delaying tactic.
“Blair wants to go down in history as a police chief who never caved to the justice demands of African Canadians,” he told Share.
Hamalengwa, who is lead counsel in a series of lawsuits against police for alleged racial profiling, accused the Board of not being able to control Blair.
“The Board has shown its impotence when it comes to ending carding and racial profiling,” he said. “What is happening is intolerable.”
Hamalengwa said a new chief has to be justice-oriented to end racial profiling and carding.
“That is why there should be careful regard to the selection of the new police chief,” he said. “This is another delaying tactic.”
Board members have said they are committed to getting the policy in place while Blair is still chief for about six more weeks.
Disappointed members of the Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and Network for the Elimination of Police Violence had already issued flyers for a protest when the meeting was cancelled.
The Community Contacts policy has been a hot button issue between police and the Black community.
Calls to stop the carding and racial profiling of Black youth by police have led to protests, meetings, studies and a $200 million class-action lawsuit filed against Toronto Police Service that is proceeding in court.
Lawsuits have also been filed by members of the community against Peel Regional Police and Durham Regional Police for alleged racial profiling practices.