By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
The Toronto Police Service Board has put on hold the new version of the carding policy pending more information. Members want to know what kind of information the police will be allowed to gather and document.
They still don’t get it!
Carding harkens back to the days of Jim Crow in the old American south when Black people, and especially Black men, had no rights. Here, in 2015, the civilian board which is supposed to oversee the largest police force in the country in one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in North America, if not the world, is still looking at ways the police can stop and document innocent Black people.
What am I missing here?
We don’t want you to stop and question innocent Black men, period! We don’t want your police officers to be given free rein to profile young Black men and stop them at will to see if they are up to something sinister or to determine if they might one day in the future be up to something sinister.
You don’t stop people in a supposedly civilized society as this one claims to be without a good reason. And someone just being Black is not a good reason. We are not living in apartheid South Africa!
Police officers already have the power to stop an individual – of any race, creed or colour – if there is a suspicion that person might be involved in a criminal activity or have information of a criminal activity that could assist the police in their investigation of said criminal activity.
And we don’t have a problem with that. What we do have a problem with is when they abuse that power by singling out Black people, especially Black young men, for investigation when they have no reason to do so other than the colour of the individual’s skin.
So, no, we don’t want you, police board, to find out what information police officers will be allowed to gather from these illegal stops. We want you to tell them to stop harassing Black people.
And if Police Chief Bill Blair continues to refuse to take direction from the board, as he is supposed to do, put the whole thing on hold until he leaves office in another few weeks and then deal with the new chief, hopefully someone with a better sense of what community policing means.
How could stopping, questioning and documenting information on young Black men (in other words, harassing them) help to better the relationship between police and the community? That is not engagement, it is harassment. Nothing good can come of this.
And we still don’t know how this information is being used or will be used in the future. Will a decent young Black man applying for a job find out later on that his application was turned down because he was deemed to be known to police as information on him was found in a police database?
Would a young Black man heading to the U.S. find himself barred from entering that country because his name was found in a police database?
How would this information affect the future lives of the people the police profile and document as a result of Blair and Mayor John Tory’s racist policy towards young Black men?
When Blair insists that police officers will receive proper training to understand the new policy so that they can respect the rights of the individuals they stop, he is more than a bit disingenuous. Our police officers are among the best trained anywhere. And most of them are good, decent officers who do their jobs with pride and honour. It is the bad ones, the racist ones, who worry us.
And no amount of training will fix them. What he should have been focusing on is establishing guidelines for those bad cops with strict penalties attached. That is the only thing that would control them, not more training.
And, finally, Tory should remove himself from the board. He has been a major impediment to the board’s proper oversight of the police because of his close friendship with Blair. He seems more concerned with helping Blair to get his own way than he is about proper policing. He is doing neither the community nor the police any good being on the board. He needs to remove himself. Now!