By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
It has been suggested to me that members of the community, meaning the Black community, should support the city’s new police chief.
The message, I guess, is that because he is Black, he deserves our support. It might also be meant to suggest that if he fails, it would look bad on us.
I don’t have a problem supporting him. In fact, most of us would want to support him. But we would want to know that he is also going to be supporting us; that he would be the catalyst for change in the way policing affects Black people in this city.
It is time we stop supporting people just because they share our skin colour. We need more than that. We need to know that they share our values; our concerns; our fears, our sense of place in this society and, when placed in a position to make a difference, are willing to step up.
We need our teachers to pay special attention to the education of Black children. We need Black police officers to ensure the rights of Black people in their custody are respected and to lead by example. We need our judges, justices of the peace, lawyers – both defence and crown – to do all they can where possible to avoid the warehousing and further criminalizing of Black youth in correctional facilities by finding alternative solutions instead of just going with the flow.
We need our politicians to speak up for the community and speak out on issues affecting the community. Having a Black face in Queen’s Park is not enough. We need a Black voice. Or voices. We need to know that when issues arise that affect us, there is someone in the room who has our back.
We need those people appointed to important positions – committees, boards, commissions, etc. – in government and the private sector to understand that maybe, just maybe, those who made those appointments might really want to get our unique perspective and not just to hear what they can hear from anyone else. Speak up for the community. Otherwise you are useless to them … and to us.
What is the Association of Black Law Enforcement’s (ABLE) position on the issue of carding and the over-policing of Black youth in this city?
Why haven’t we heard from the multitude of Black pastors, priests and other clergy in our community on issues affecting us? Aren’t their members vulnerable? Don’t they have young people in their places of worship who are affected by all the issues that affect the rest of the community? We know they do speak out on issues that affect other communities. What about ours?
Other communities do these things as a matter of course. They take care of their own and are respected for it. We, on the other hand, are so concerned with pleasing others that we are failing in our responsibilities to our community. And our children are the ones suffering for it.
Do you think John Tory and Bill Blair would have treated any other community the way they treated us? Still, many among us will continue to support Tory. And many among us will go out to support Blair if he does, indeed, win the Liberal nomination for the upcoming federal election.
Shame on us.
That is why they don’t respect us.
This issue of carding has been a thorn in our collective sides for a long time. Our new chief has to address it. He has been quoted in mainstream media as saying that he is not in favour of ending it. But is that it? Does he have anything else to add? Like, is he willing to look at aspects of this policy which negatively impact innocent young Black men in this city? Is he willing to listen to the cries of the many mothers and fathers in our community who fear for their children’s safety?
Is he willing to at least look to see if there is anything he can do to make life a bit easier for Black folks in this city where policing – or over policing – is concerned?
I am glad that he wants to hear from and speak with members of the community. He has to listen to us; reason with us. He has to explain what his plans are. He says he wants to end random stops where police officers cast a wide net (my words) which might see innocent people being documented. We understand that the police have to do their jobs investigating crime and gathering intelligence which means that they do have to stop and document people who they might deem to be suspicious or who might have information that could assist them in their work. But that should not mean the documenting of innocent Blacks – especially young people – whose lives could be seriously and very negatively impacted by such documentation.
I am told that he might want to take another look at the TAVIS program which has been severely criticized in some quarters for their aggressive style of policing in at-risk areas of the city. I know that even some police officers have complained about their methods.
We don’t want to dissuade officers from doing their jobs but we do want them to be professional and fair. That is not too much to ask and expect.
We have been told that the chief enjoys the support of rank-and-file officers. Why doesn’t he test that? Make some major moves. Let’s see if he really has that support or if they wanted him because they feel he wouldn’t challenge them.
Write procedures that will restrict the use of or provide a very detailed, focused directive on carding and see if the rank-and-file officers fall in line.
For him to be a successful chief, the support he would need is not only from us but from his frontline officers, his senior and middle management officers at headquarters and in the divisions, and the police association.
Actually, the association’s leadership could play a very significant role by letting him know without question that they want him to succeed and that they are prepared to work with him.
It is the association – and its leader, Mike McCormack – that the rank-and-file, the frontline officers, truly support. If the chief and McCormack – and their respective leadership teams – can work together to come up with better ways to deal with some of the fretful issues that strain the relationship between the police and the community, it will go a long way to determine if he is going to be successful.
Of course, it won’t be that simple. There are different agendas here but at the end of the day, the police brand, to borrow the term from McCormack himself, is what is at stake here and for that there should only be one agenda – providing the best service possible to all the citizens of this great city.