Thursday, November 15, 2012

Toronto Police Services Board and The Chief of Police Denied Access to Black People at a Meeting to Discuss Racial Profiling and Carding of Black Men

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Posted on November 14, 2012
As a litigator who is involved in issues of racial profiling in criminal matters, civil matters and human rights applications, naturally I have an interest in the Toronto Police Service and how its policies in this area that touches on the fundamental rights of citizens in this City are shaped.
I attended the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on November 14, 2012, to be met by a wall of police officers who denied total access to persons interested in attending that meeting, most of whom were Black people. The claim the the meeting room was full was proven to be false by Televisions reports that showed empty seats. As well, it is the normal practice to stream the meeting into an overflow room.
The Chair of the Police Services Board Alok Mukerjee and the Chief of Police William Blair are responsible for this disrespectful treatment.
Lets see who were outside: John Sewell, a former mayor could not get in. African Canadian Legal Clinic Lawyer Roger Love could not get.
I could not get into police headquarters to attend this public meeting. Here I am being blocked along with Tidy Francis and Steven Mayers. 
Three Black Deputants could not get in. To add injury to insult one was stopped, carded and denied access. The female Sargeant even recorded his personal information on her cellular telephone - a total violation of what a public meeting is supposedly about open access and possibly a violation of the man's privacy.
In fact even the media was prevented from entering the meeting, it took a lot of time and effort for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to gain entry to that public meeting. The Toronto Star also reported on the lock out of citizens who were there to make deputations.
The Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Service may do well to listen to the voices of the people in this city, once total public trust is lost it is hard to be regain and many countries are experiencing that phenomena with unfortunate results at all levels.
I wrote an email to the Chair and the Chief of Police that follows:
From: Selwyn Pieters
Cc: "Pieters, Selwyn"
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2012 22:30:02 -0500
Subject: Racially insensitive conduct at Toronto Police Headquarters - November 14, 2012
Good evening,

It was interesting that as a public board with a meeting that was supposedly opened to the public and discussing an issue of importance to BLACK PEOPLE, i.e. racial profiling and carding of our young people, we were denied entry by armed police officers. Please advise whether as Chair of the Police Services Board together with the Chief of Police you directed your officers to deny entry to Black people at this meeting? Even speakers with deputations were denied admission at least until 2:30 p.m. when I left the premises at 40 College Street. A Picture is enclosed with the police officers blocking my entry and that of others the doors to police headquarters.

One of the Deputants a young Black male was forced to produce his id to a female Sargeant, picture enclosed. I as well, as an "Officer of the Court" vouched for his identity, as well as others to no avail. In order words, he was stopped, carded, and denied access. He was one of many who had deputations to make and were turned away.

The unwelcome conduct today at 40 College Street spoke volumes and no words needed to be spoken.

You need to take ownership for this an apologize.

Public meetings such be such and the impediment placed today on lawful access to a meeting that is ordinarily public is unacceptable.

Yours truly,

Selwyn A. Pieters
The Chief of Police explanation that could be found by viewing the Rogers Cable television network recording of that public meeting, unfortunately, did not accord with what took place outside the doors at police headquarters and some explanation is required for the discrepancy.
This is the state of affairs in the City of Toronto. Racial harassment and racial profiling is now the norm for our youth. In a speech to youth workers from the federal, municipal, provincial levels of government and private sector on November 08, 2012, I advised them of the important role they play in combatting racial profiling.
The widespread practice of racial profiling by the Toronto police was documented in a series of articles published in early February 2010 in the Toronto Star. Those articles may be found at Star reporters analyzed police data recorded from 1.5 million contact cards or field information reports on 1.1 million individuals stopped and carded by Toronto police between 2003 and 2008.  The data is from what police call `208 cards’ where police officers record the name, race, age, reason for the stop, time and date, and who the individual is with. Not everyone who is stopped is carded, but the cards record about 200,000 people stopped each year, or about one person every second shift by an officer. Analysis by the Toronto Star shows that black and brown youth are 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than white youth, three times more likely to be charged with a driving offence, and three times more likely to be held in jail rather than released.  Thus the Toronto police do not only engage in racial profiling in respect to those they stop; they also engage in racial profiling in regard to those they detain and those they charge. This is not the first time racial profiling by the Toronto police has been documented.
In October 2002, the Toronto Star published a series of articles alleging racial profiling within the Toronto Police Services based on extensive data they analyzed – over 500,000 incidents over a six year period.[1] In one of its analyses, the Star focused on arrests for simple drug possession (not trafficking) and how arrested individuals of different races were treated. The results? Whites were released on the scene 76.5% of the time, Blacks only 61.8% of the time. For those who were not released immediately, the difference was even more stark: Blacks were kept in jail 15.5% of the time pending a bail hearing, while Whites only 7.3% of the time. Julian Fantino, then Toronto Chief of Police, was quick to respond, "There's no racism...We do not do racial profiling."[2] Craig Bromell who was president of the Toronto Police Association echoed Fantino's beliefs and questioned how the Star had come to its conclusions.[3] Then Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman’s view was typically insightful: “Police only arrest bad guys…I don’t believe the Toronto police engage in racial profiling in any way.”[4]
Often times, the product of that profiling and harassment shows up in Court. In 2011, Mr. Justice Khawly found in one such recent large scale prosecution called “Project Corral” that the prosecution’s case was based on an “Elixir of suspicion, convincing rational human beings that what looks, acts and talks like suspicion magically transforms into evidence.” [5] Regardless of who commits crime there is no justification for law enforcement officers or organizations to use bias, stereotyping, or discrimination against individuals or large demographic groups of people. 
Racial profiling by any police service is unacceptable and all police officials have a responsibility to ensure that they treat people fairly and professionally. To target a particular race of young people for investigative purposes without reasonable and probable grounds places into question the competence of the police service on a policy level and the conduct of the officers on a personal level. "Competent policing, equals public trust."
This is not a Black versus White issue, whether we speak of youth who are Black, Aboriginal, Arabs, Muslim or mixed race, youth workers are at the frontline of persons involved in the receipt of information from young persons who are targeted and harassed by the police. It is therefore important that some measure of training and understanding of the regime of the Human Rights Tribunal be understood and the role youth workers can play as well.
It is a fundamental right of all humans and all Canadian citizens to be treated fairly, equitably and with respect by the very institutions mandated to uphold universal human rights instruments and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
By letter of November 23, 2012, Alok Mukherjee regretted the incident occurred. Chief Blair on the other hand shifted the reason for not letter Black people into Police Headquarters blaming it on protestors. Recall it was claimed that space capacity and fire code regulations was the issue at the material date.

[1] Rankin, Jim et al., “Singled out”. The Toronto Star. 19 October 2002.
[2] John Sewell, Police in Canada: The real story (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company Ltd.) at 76
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] R. v. Agil, Chambers, Fullerton, Jimale and Brown (Ont. CJ. Unreported, July 14, 2011, Khawley J.), p. 8.

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