By JUNE VEECOCK
Thanks for the opportunity to formally, register my opposition to this policy.
My name is June Veecock. I am a labour and community activist with a keen interest in human rights. During the period 1987 – 2005, I was the director of human rights with the Ontario Federation of Labour until I retired.
More importantly, I am a mother and grandmother of Black men.
So I have a very keen interest and strong views about police officers and their use and abuse of power. Indeed, for years Black people and in particular, Black men, have been at the receiving end of this abuse when in contact with police officers. For those of us who have been active in the community, the Toronto Star’s articles on profiling & carding only verified what the community had known for years.
I am opposed to the policy because it is unnecessary. Police officers do not need additional powers. They already have extraordinary powers. The adoption of this policy will essentially negate the requirement of having reasonable grounds before stopping an individual. This is unacceptable. Under the guise of “general investigation”, this policy will allow police officers to go on fishing patrols in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, stopping, searching and terrorizing young Black men with the implicit support of this board. This would be the Canadian way of New York’s “stop & frisk” which was repealed just last year. What a shame.
What is most troubling about this policy, if adopted, is the possibility that it could be abused. It could be used to declare war on Black men and by extension Black families. These men have mothers, and yes, fathers. There is nothing to prevent officers from not only harassing our innocent young people, but before long, their parents, other relatives and even friends could be carded under the guise of general investigation.
This may seem far-fetched but it is not.
The concise Oxford Dictionary – the new edition for the 1990s defines “general” as completely or almost universal; including or affecting all or nearly all parts or cases of things; prevalent; widespread; not limited in application. Undoubtedly, the police are well aware that this term – which is open ended – will allow them to investigate, investigate until they obtain or create evidence to lay charges.
The PACER Report prepared for the police reveals, in just two years, 2009 to 2011 – over one million people were carded with about one third of these stops indicating general investigation. And this is without any policy – at least that I am aware of – giving them justification for these stops. Try to think about what that number would have been if they had had the authority for those stops.
Further, under the guise of general investigation and community safety, this policy will allow anyone, anywhere and for any or no reason to be stopped.
For the White folks on the board, just imagine being stopped not because you have committed a crime, or are suspected of any criminal behavior or unlawful conduct, nor have information about a crime but simply because of the colour of your skin, how you look – and very often where you live. That’s the reality – sometimes the daily reality of black men in this society. It is obvious the police use skin colour to determine who is likely to commit a crime. That’s why so many Black men are carded and discriminated against on the prohibited ground of race and also social status. Essentially, penalized for being Black and poor. Over and over again – day after day.
Why would this board want to encourage and condone such discriminatory practices?
Why does this board want to entrench racial profiling and carding? This policy may appear neutral but we know that carding has had an adverse impact on Black youth. Some of whom report it is not unusual to be stopped by the police several times in one day. They could be driving or walking – it makes no difference.
And people want to know why Black men are angry. Unfortunately most of the anger is misplaced and turned against each other instead of a system which harasses and criminalizes them – a system which creates the environment to justify their bias and discriminatory actions.
Equally troubling and in fact quite insulting is this notion that the police will “ensure public trust in policing through enhancing community understanding of individual rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the Ontario Human Rights Code and board policies during police-civilian contacts”.
Really? What an astonishingly stupid idea. On the one hand, the plan is to inform the community of their rights under three different statutes, while on the other hand there is this policy which will allow your officers to stop individuals at anytime, anywhere without reasonable grounds to do so.
That “procedures will ensure civilians know as much as possible in the circumstances about their right to leave and the reason for the contact”. I want to ask this board what is meant by “as much as possible under the circumstances”? People either have the right to know why they are stopped or not. Why the flexibility – why give officers discretionary powers to determine who will be told about the right to leave. Why?
That “officers will be instructed about the use of respectful language, tone and demeanour during contacts”. This is funny, really funny.
I have asked before and will ask again what planet is Frank Addario and members of this board living on? Don’t police officers know already that they should be respectful when speaking to the public and inform them of their rights when interviewing them? And why stop me and then tell me I don’t have to speak to you?
These platitudes can be harmful to our community – even deadly. For a young Black man stopped by police, trying to assert his rights, the rights that police officers know that they have, can result in several trumped-up charges and at times even a severe beating.
It is important to note the discriminatory, systemic practise of profiling and carding is not as a result of the community not knowing their rights but rather because of the targeting of Black youth and again by extension, the Black community. Knowing your rights is one thing exercising them is another.
Finally, let me reiterate, police officers do not need additional powers. Perhaps more importantly, there is no place in a civilized society for this state sanctioned racist approach to policing. Rather, this board must find ways to ensure police officers treat people as individuals instead of making decisions on stereotypical and prejudiced views of groups of people.
Profiling and carding must end. I hope this board, in the interest of justice, act responsibly and reject this policy.
This policy is not about community safety. Indeed, police officers are paid to serve and protect – all communities or so they tell us. Nor is it about non-biased policing, rather it is about entrenching racial harassment and the systematic criminalization of young Black men.