Time to stop criminalizing our youth

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Arnold A. Auguste By Arnold Auguste
Wednesday April 29 2015

 

 

Publisher/Senior Editor

Police insist that carding – or what they are now calling Community Engagement Reports – is a necessary and important investigative tool. They say it allows them to gather information that could be helpful in future investigations.

What they are really saying is that, when they stop and document information on a young Black man, it is their considered opinion that this youth will one day be a criminal or have some valuable information about a crime that has been committed.

Having his information in their database will make it easier for them to find him.

That is what they are saying about our Black children.

Someone asked the question recently: “With that line of thinking, wouldn’t it also be helpful to also card and document lawyers, politicians, Bay Street bankers and even some cops?”

Well, wouldn’t it?

Then the police and the politicians wonder what they need to do to “bridge” the divide between the Black community and the police.

It is simple. Stop harassing and carding our children.

We don’t have a problem with cops doing their job as long as they are fair. And when we are able to trust that they are fair, we won’t have a problem with them doing their job.

In what universe is it fair to stop innocent people, people going about their legitimate business, for the purpose of investigating and documenting them for future use?

Then you mock us by calling it “community engagement”.

Members of the Toronto Police Service Board should be ashamed of themselves, even the previous board, because while they tried to place some restraints on the practice of carding, they should have just gotten rid of it. Then they would not have had to endure a year-long fight with then police chief, Bill Blair, to operationalize what shouldn’t have been in the first place.

Community engagement in this context should have meant police officers meeting people and stopping for a casual chat just to exchange pleasantries. People respect that and would leave such an encounter with a sense of goodwill towards the police. Over the years I have met cops on the street with whom I chatted and the encounter was always pleasant. I remember this one young White officer with whom I chatted during the G-20 weekend (before all hell broke loose) at the corner of Lakeshore and Lower Simcoe. While watching the problems unfold on TV I thought of him and hoped that he was O.K.

When I was a teenager (back in Trinidad) there were a couple of police officers I knew and who knew me and I was always careful to not do anything to make them lose respect for me.

One day, I was speaking to a fellow and one of these officers walked by and just mentioned that he was not someone I should be associating with. I walked away immediately and never spoke to that guy again.

Community engagement could and should be a good, positive thing. It should be a way for police officers to get to engage with members of the community in a friendly manner so that they will feel comfortable with, and trusting of, the police.

There are a lot of cops who do engage with the community, especially the youth. But when those same youth walk out of the community centre or wherever they had that positive encounter just to run into a cop who just wants to harass them, what do you think the lasting effects will be?

There is racism within the police force. Just ask Black police officers. Many of them, if they are honest, will tell of the crap they have had to put up with on the job and in the station house.

And if some White cops can treat their own fellow Black cops like that, just think what they can do to a Black person without the protections a police officer is supposed to have.

The good news is that most of the cops are good, decent people who just want to do a good job and go home to their family at the end of their shift. We all know cops like that. In fact, for most of us, all the cops we know are good cops.

But when we hear young people, especially young Black men, tell of how they have been treated by police officers, it breaks your heart.

That is why we are so disappointed in Mayor John Tory and the other members of the Police Service Board who we trusted to feel our pain, before whom we poured our hearts and who have turned their backs on us. That is why we are so disappointed in our former chief, Bill Blair, who just completely blew up his otherwise noteworthy legacy by thumbing his nose at us.

But we will continue to fight against this misguided policy. We will continue to show why it is destructive to the relationship between the police and the Black community.

There is a better way and we must find it. And we will end the criminalizing of our youth.

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