“The status quo with respect to policing in 31 Division is unacceptable by any measure,” according to a report that was released earlier this week. While the findings of the Community Assessment of Police Practices (CAPP) study have made news headlines throughout the GTA, they confirm what area residents know only too well: despite a revised carding policy designed to reign in police abuses, racially biased carding continues to be widespread in the Jane and Finch community.
We have been told that the intent of the new policy, adopted last April, is to ensure that carding must be conducted in full accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It stipulates that police must have a valid public safety reason for stopping individuals, that they cannot prolong encounters to gather information to justify formal questioning, and that they must inform individuals of their right to walk away and issue a receipt listing the officer’s name, badge number, and the reason for stopping. Clearly, the “intent” of the policy has not been translated into practice.
The findings of this most recent report are unequivocal: the policy is ignored and racially discriminatory practices continue to characterize the encounters many community members have with police.
The public reaction of the police to this report is cause for further alarm. Toronto police Chief Bill Blair is defending the officers of 31 Division, telling CBC reporters yesterday that the CAPP study—a report which was commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board—is flawed.
On CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly argued that: “The crime situation has significantly turned around… as has the relationship with local police. Have we addressed all the crime problems in that area? No. Have we addressed all the trust and legitimacy issues in that area? No, but we have made progress.”
Deputy Sloly needs to be reminded that this is not about “crime situation”; it’s about “targeted policing” and “racial profiling”. Such statements contradict the views of the majority of residents of this community. The mistreatment of members of our community by police, in particular officers in 31 Division, has been a persistent and ongoing concern. As the CAPP study documents the level of trust in the police is low and many community members believe that police regularly abuse their power. Moreover, there is a widespread belief among both racialized and non-racialized groups that police racially profile members of the community.
The actual situation in Jane-Finch is as follows: We have the highest incident of improper police “carding” and criminalization of residents in the country. Our community has the largest proportion of low income and lower median household incomes levels in the City. We have very high levels of poverty, unemployment and sub-standard housing and services and one of the highest proportions of racialized people and immigrants in Toronto.
While we have serious and immediate issues with the Toronto Police and its 31 Division, at the end of the day policies and practices at all levels of government have been contributing to the creation of this unacceptable situation. The need for all levels of government to stop austerity policies and current “law and order” practices, including policing residents in poor and racialized neighborhoods, is long overdue. Governments need to start making real investments in our communities for meaningful employment with decent pay, quality education, affordable and comfortable housing, accessible public transit, and improved community-based programs and services in order to create lasting positive change.
In July 2012, following an incident involving high ranking member of the 31 Division, JFAAP wrote an open letter to the Toronto Police Services Board stating that a large constituency of our community had witnessed or experienced numerous problematic encounters with the police. Officers who abuse their authority on the streets, in their cars and in the station rarely face consequences. The result has been emotional scaring, lack of trust and resentment towards the police and, in some cases, like Junior Manon, death. Our youth are afraid to walk the streets of our communities because of racial profiling.
We have not seen appropriate responses or concentrated follow-through to these abuses from the Toronto Police Services Board or by ay other levels of government or elected politicians in the area. Enough is enough! Toronto Police and its 31 Division must put an end in their targeted policing, racist harassment of black and other racialized youth! The Toronto Police Services Board and 31 Division must be held accountable for their actions! We are calling for the removal of officers in charge of 31 Division, a public apology to the community, and an immediate change to the discriminatory and racially motivated police practices.
Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP) firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.jfaap.com November 14, 2014 CC to: All community organizations and grass-roots groups in the community and allies Press Conference will take place on Monday, November 17 @4pm, Jane Finch intersection (south east corner). Press Release and more information to follow. Some background information: Jane and Finch Residents Allege Police Brutality in 31 Division – 2008 http://www.jane-finch.com/videos/policebrutalityprotest.htm March for Justice – 2010 http://www.jane-finch.com/videos/marchtojustice.htm