“If you want to be an idiot, you don’t get to be an idiot in our uniform, you don’t get to be an idiot diminishing our organization and you cannot hide behind the badge to abuse the authority so carefully earned and so carefully used by all of us.”
This is just part of the message Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair sent internally by video to Toronto Police Service’s 8,000 members recently.
It was, for all intents and purposes, a dressing down for what the Chief called ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and has come in the wake of media reports of people in uniform found engaging in all manner of abuses of the powers entrusted to them.
Long before the tide turned away from public trust in the wake of the appalling breakdown of command witnessed during the 2010 G-20 Summit here in Toronto, too many members of the Black community have understood the nature and frequency of abuse from some members of Toronto’s police force. Far too many young Black men have been the victims of abuse at the hands of police only to be then charged with assaulting an officer – a very common charge for civilians who cross the police.
Some have cynically suggested that Blair’s video message to his officers was really intended for the public as a strategy to begin to repair that damaged trust. He has never truly accepted responsibility for the way events unfolded during that dark weekend of the G-20 three years ago.
So, while his message was strident, we hope that it is not just empty rhetoric to appease the Police Services Board now that the board wants an accounting of bad cops.
If he is seen by the public as not backing up his words with real action, he risks losing credibility and doing more damage to police/community relations, which also might lead some to question his influence as Police Chief.
We will judge the full extent of his words when those who abuse their position, once found to be in violation, are held accountable.
There also has to be a safe environment for the good cops to report the bad ones. As it is now, it is commonly held that even if a cop is not abusing the law, he/she will have to turn a blind eye to those who are, in order to protect him/herself. Bad cops must be held accountable when they break the law.
We therefore call on the Police Chief to ensure that his strong words are backed with firm resolve. It does no good when the law-abiding in this city live in fear of both criminals and the police.
Share is 35 years old this week
There are people in the Greater Toronto Area who have never known this region without the presence of Share, one of Canada’s largest ethnic newspapers. With this week’s issue, we mark 35 years of being a clear voice in, from and for this city’s Black and Caribbean community. We have not deviated from our mandate to be a strong and determined voice and to ensure the events of importance that occur in our community are told honestly.
Share steadfastly focuses on what truly comprises our immigrant and native born African-Canadian and Caribbean community so that our readers can see themselves mirrored in stories that they recognize as their own and which they may never see anywhere else.
In 35 years, we have not shied away from controversial matters. We opposed the decision to choose as the inaugural performance of the Ford Centre, now the North York Centre for the Performing Arts, a revival of the anachronistic play, Show Boat. We supported the Africentric Alternative School long before many others did. We continue to advocate for community ownership of our annual carnival. Each week we share the successes and achievements of countless people in our community, especially our youth, and thank God for being able to do so.
We take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the continued support of our advertisers and for the unwavering interest of our readership, an estimated 130,000, both in print and online, who are a part of this journey each week.