By TOM GODFREY
Some members of the community are already searching for political allies and supporters to help overturn the controversial Toronto police practice of carding that is causing a lot of tension in the city.
Chief Mark Saunders wasted little time in telling us that he will not dismantle the carding process and that young Blacks, who are the most targeted for checks, are on their own.
The blow is a set-back to community and human rights groups that have been lobbying for changes.
Toronto anti-carding protesters have been pounding the pavement outside 40 College St., regularly calling for an end of the practice in which young Black and Brown-skinned men are pulled over for questioning without committing a crime.
Their personal data are kept in police databases for future investigations and can lead to them being denied work, credit, apartments or even government jobs, like policing.
Some protesters liken the carding of young men to the use of Pass Laws and pass cards for segregating Blacks from Whites that were part of the norm in apartheid South Africa.
Black people under the apartheid regime were routinely stopped by White South African cops and asked for their pass cards, an internal passport that permitted them to be in certain areas. Failure to produce a pass card meant serious trouble.
By maintaining the use of carding, Saunders has instantly isolated a large swath of the community, who were more than willing to work with him and his officers.
A lot of civic goodwill that should have been generated in the community over the selection of the first Black chief has been lost to the carding issue.
The Chief’s term has only begun and we are right back at square one, with community members continuing their anger and distrust for Toronto cops in some areas as crimes escalate.
I remember covering the race riots in Los Angeles in 1992 when Rodney King was beaten by police officers at an intersection in South Central. In its aftermath, I saw gas stations being torched, stores looted and cabbies driving around with loaded pistols to ward of robbers.
The issues with young Blacks, either in L.A. or Toronto, are pretty well the same and include more jobs, opportunities and over policing.
If the issue of carding is not dealt with in a satisfactory manner for the community, we can expect problems years from now as being experienced in Cleveland, Ferguson, New York City and other cities.
Many people, and I am one, are jaded by the recent process of selecting a police chief that included citywide meetings and consultations that went on for months with reports and findings.
It was all for naught, and a big waste of time and taxpayers’ money, since the real decision was reportedly made in a back-room meeting involving key players. What a shame.
A lot of damage has so far been inflicted on the community by the carding process that Saunders calls a great investigative tool.
The Chief has a mandate to protect all Torontonians and he indeed will. But, to many it feels like a return to earlier days of keeping Blacks in-check and in-line in this great city.
Many expected more of the City’s first Black chief in regards to helping those who supported him in the Black community.
Mayor John Tory and Board Chair Alok Mukherjee have long dashed for cover, leaving the community, as always, to stand up to fend for ourselves. Tory will be back for votes in the next election.
The Pass Laws system was finally dismantled in South Africa in 1986, not until it had led to the arrest of 17 million Blacks in that country.
In Toronto, the protests to end carding will take to the streets again and again.
Many are hoping and praying that Saunders will do the right thing and stop carding the young and those at-risk and maybe help them find a job instead.