Tag Archives: TPS

If Ayanle Hassan Ali is a terrorist, so was the Kalamazoo Uber gunman

Image description: the top results of a Google Image search for "terrorist". Of the 37 images shown, 35 are Islamic terrorists, one is a member of the KKK, and one is a bar graph which shows that terrorism by separatist organizations is orders of magnitude more common than Islamic terrorism.

Image description: the top results of a Google Image search for “terrorist”. Of the 37 images shown, 35 are Islamic terrorists, one is a member of the KKK, and one is a bar graph which shows that terrorist attacks by separatist organizations are orders of magnitude more common than Islamic terrorism in the European Union.

Today I’d like to compare two prominent incidents of violence from the last month – the stabbing of two active-duty military personnel in North York, Ontario by Ayanle Hassan Ali and the shooting of eight people in Kalamazoo, Michigan by Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton  – and look at how each of them was portrayed in the media. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given the names of the men involved, which of them got labelled a potential terrorist, but the comparison goes quite a bit deeper than it may appear at first glance.

In case you missed the story, Ali entered a Canadian Forces recruitment centre mid-afternoon on Monday, March 14, and (non-fatally) stabbed the person behind the counter. He then attempted to enter further into the centre, but was stopped by several soldiers, one of whom was (non-fatally) wounded. According to Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, Ali allegedly told the soldiers that “Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people”. He faces several charges in connection with this attack.

There’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth in the Toronto press over the past week about whether Ali’s attack on the military recruitment office constituted an act of terrorism. This past Tuesday, the Toronto Sun’s cover read “‘TERROR’. THERE, WE SAID IT”, and they leaned heavily on the notion that they were bravely defying a cadre of ultra-leftist social justice warriors which has somehow wrapped their commie tentacles around the public consciousness and coerced people into being terrified of calling Muslims terrorists: Continue Reading

CityNews engaged in reckless journalism by pushing pro-carding police propaganda

Image: A Toronto police car. (Image credit: Wikimedia/Raysonho)

This past weekend, there was a late-night shooting in Toronto’s Chinatown neighbourhood. Two people are dead and three injured; the shooter remains at large. It was the latest shooting in what was an unusually violent January for Toronto.

In this post, I’m not going to be looking at the shooting in much detail. Instead, I’d like to look at the way that one specific media organization has responded to it – by using irresponsible and unfounded remarks by the president of the Toronto Police Association to draw in traffic and stir up a false controversy. Continue Reading

Body cameras, TPS’s biggest response Sammy Yatim shooting, wouldn’t have prevented his death

Image description: A close-up shot of a Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

Image description: A close-up shot of a side-facing Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

As you’ve no doubt heard if you live in Toronto, James Forcillo, the cop who shot and killed Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013, was found guilty this week – not of murder, but of attempted murder.

It’s a sad but true fact that no cop has ever been convicted of murder in Ontario, and many legal observers expected that, given the legal system’s built-in lenience towards killers in uniforms, Forcillo was likely to get off scot-free. It’s better than nothing, a lot of folks are saying. At least he was found guilty of something.

While I see where this argument is coming from, it feels defeatist to me. It feels like it gives up too easily, resigns itself to a certain level of police brutality and impunity.

James Forcillo murdered Sammy Yatim. He had a vast variety of options at his disposal short of shooting and killing the disturbed teenager, and he tried literally none of them. Sammy Yatim’s death was tragic, senseless, entirely unnecessary. In finding Forcillo not guilty on a charge of second-degree murder, the jury was essentially saying that his actions were justifiable. That this is possible, that we aren’t able to legally hold police to higher standards than the general population, is a travesty.

As for the precedent this trial sets, it’s hard to say. Police union president Mike McCormack is convinced that it will have a chilling effect on officers, will make them more hesitant to act in volatile situation, will make us all less safe. There’s a lot of bullshit in the way he’s spinning that, but maybe it’s true that cops will feel slightly less trigger-happy knowing that they may actually face (gasp!) consequences.

To date, the most significant consequence of the Yatim shooting is the implementation of a few key recommendations made by an inquiry into his death by Frank Iacobucci, a retired Supreme Court justice. One of these recommendations was the use of body cameras by frontline Toronto police officers, and a pilot program was launched last May.

In this article, I argued that body cameras are a solution in search of a problem (in that we don’t lack for footage of abusive cops, taken by civilians or surveillance cameras or dash cameras), that they are problematic and prone to abuse, and that body cameras do literally nothing to address the actual root causes of police brutality. Continue Reading

Hallowe’en special: there’s nothing scarier than the police

This week I couldn’t seem to go a day without hearing a horror story about police brutality, hubris, abuse of power, intimidation, or sexual violence.

The most pervasive one was, of course, the now-notorious incident in South Carolina, in which a white police officer seizes a seated young black girl from her desk and hurls her across a classroom, because she (apparently) didn’t immediately comply with his order to leave the room. The girl, reportedly grieving the recent death of her mother, was then charged with “disrupting a classroom”; the classmate who filmed the video has, absurdly, also been charged with disrupting a classroom.

This whole violent attack was disgusting, pure and simple. (I say this based purely on the descriptions I’ve read of the assault, because I myself haven’t watched the footage, nor do I intend to. I likewise didn’t watch Eric Garner’s slow suffocation on a New York City sidewalk, or look at the photos of Mike Brown’s body left lying in the hot Ferguson streets for hours after his extrajudicial execution. I read about these things, and that’s disturbing enough for me.)

Speaking out against such abuse can be costly, though, as superstar film director Quentin Tarantino found out this week. At a New York City rally against police brutality organized by a group called Rise Up October, Tarantino said:

“This is not being dealt with in any way at all. That’s why we are out here. If it was being dealt with, then these murdering cops would be in jail or at least be facing charges. When I see murders, I do not stand by. I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”

The backlash against Tarantino from police apologists was immediate and intense. The national police union, echoing calls from the NYPD, LAPD, and departments in Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, and New Jersey, has called for a boycott of Tarantino and his forthcoming film. Media coverage has largely fallen in line with the police angle, repeatedly falling back on the supposed insensitivity of the timing of the protest, which took place within a week of the on-duty death of an NYPD officer. In an attempt to make the protest appear out-of-bounds radical, the ostensibly left-leaning Guardian quotes the rally’s organizers as saying that police brutality amounts to a “genocidal assault on black and Latino people in this country”.

Lost amidst all this furor is the reality of the situation, which is that police Tarantino’s words are completely accurate: officers in the United States routinely get away with murder, and nothing is being done to deal with this dire crisis. Continue Reading

Policing for profit: Why the criminal justice system only makes reforms it can profit on

Starting next Tuesday, drivers in Ontario face stiff new penalties for distracted driving:

As part of the new Bill 31, which was introduced by the Liberal government and will come into effect Sept. 1, drivers can be fined $1,000 (up from $280) and receive three demerit points should they be caught by police.

It’s intended to be so restrictive that motorists put down their phones and end what Staff Sgt. Mitchell called a distracted driving “epidemic” on our roads…

Transportation Minister and Vaughan MPP Steven Del Duca congratulated lawmakers on passing the bill unanimously and said it was about time we recognized the risks inherent to distracted driving.

He added he has two daughters, one eight and one four and he hopes they will be safer as a result.

Del Duca further noted the rules are justified considering distracted driving is now as big a problem in this province as impaired driving.

Del Duca is, if anything, understating the case. Statistics from 2013 showed that there were actually more fatalities from distracted driving than from drunk driving in this province. Multiple studies have shown that the average driver’s reaction time when using a cell phone is significantly slower than if they are drunk or high. (Also, for those who like their evidence anecdotal, Mythbusters “confirmed” it by getting drunk and driving around.)

So clearly, the government has an interest in deterring people from distracted driving. That interest is well backed up by thoroughly documented evidence from multiple reliable sources, including the government’s own statistics. This is a clear example of evidence-based policy-making.

It’s also a policy that will make cops across the province a lot of money. Continue Reading

CityNews stoops to victim-blaming in coverage of Toronto #BlackLivesMatter protest

Yesterday afternoon and evening, a few hundred protesters organized under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter stopped traffic on an on-ramp to the Allen Expressway at Eglinton Avenue.

The protest started just metres away from the spot where Andrew Loku, a local man originally from South Sudan, was gunned down by Toronto police just a few weeks ago, shot within a minute of police arriving on the scene at his home. Ever since Loku’s death, activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have been ramping up the pressure on both the police and the city government.

On Thursday, the activist group Black Lives Matter-Toronto occupied a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board. They demanded the mayor and the police chief apologize for Loku’s shooting. “Every single day, black bodies in this city face violence,” said the group’s co-founder, Rodney Diverlus. “Whether it’s carding, whether it’s surveillance, whether it’s physical violence, and whether it’s death. This is life and death for us.” […]

The female officer was the first up the stairs, a thin double set that goes out and back with a landing in the middle. The male wasn’t far behind. “I went in and stood at the door because I heard a commotion,” said [Leslie] Colvin[, a building resident]. “And I heard ‘Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer!’ three times. And then ‘Bap! Bap! Bap!’ — two or three shots.”

[Susan] Schofield[, another resident,] was also standing in the stairwell. “I heard them yell at Andrew to drop the hammer,” she said. “Andrew didn’t have a chance to do anything. It was that quick.”

Loku was allegedly threatening his upstairs neighbours with a hammer. In the aftermath of his death, there’s been a lot of speculation about his mental health and emotional stability, none of which is in any way relevant.

A case in point is CityNews’s coverage of last night’s road blockade: Continue Reading

Tory flip-flops, calls for carding to be abolished after pressure from elites

April 16, 2015:

In a high stakes move, the Toronto police board has passed a revised community engagement [i.e. carding] policy Thursday, rushing through a document before Chief Bill Blair leaves at the end of the month without the “progressive” citizen safeguards first sought by the board a year ago…

Board member Mayor John Tory said after the board vote that he chose to support the revised policy because it was the only way forward after an eight-month stalemate.

“That policy could not and was not operationalized,” said Tory. “Communication was diminishing, attitudes were hardening on all sides,” says Tory, although he says any suggestion that Chief Bill Blair was insubordinate were unfounded.

June 3, 2015:

After dozens of prominent Torontonians stood just steps from John Tory’s second-floor city hall office to demand an end to carding, the mayor said he heard their message “very clearly.”

But on Wednesday, Tory refused to join that call, instead doubling down on his position that the practice needs reforming, not shelving.

“Work has continued virtually non-stop on improving the procedure which governs police-community engagements and relations, and though it is a complex issue I think all sides acknowledge that we are making progress,” Tory said at a press conference held inside his office. “I have always maintained that the recently-passed policy is a beginning not an end.”

Today:

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for an end of the controversial police practice of carding, which he said has “eroded the public trust.”

“It is my intention to see carding cancelled permanently and that we start fresh,” Tory told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

Tory said he intends to go before Toronto’s police board on June 18 and call for the practice to be eliminated.

So what happened here? Continue Reading

Activists flood Toronto city council meeting, demand end to TPS cooperation with immigration enforcement

Toronto Police Services is in violation of the City of Toronto’s Access Without Fear policy, which guarantees access to city services to all residents of the city regardless of their immigration status. What’s more, TPS misrepresented both their policies and their obligations in a report to Toronto’s city council.

Those were the accusations levelled by a coalition of community groups and activists at a meeting of council’s Community Development and Recreations Committee this morning. In a series of well-prepared and impassioned deputations to the committee, representatives from a broad array of organizations working with different affected communities detailed the many ways in which Toronto police violate non-status immigrants’ right to access law enforcement without fear of deportation.

The consequence of this, as many of the deputations made clear, is that many communities are fearful of turning to the police even in the most severe emergencies.

TPS’s policy is that they will not ask for proof of status unless they have a “bona fide” reason for doing so – what they call their “Don’t Ask” policy. They also contend that, once they have discovered that a person is a non-status immigrant, they have a legal obligation under the Ontario Police Services Act to inform the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Both of these positions were hotly disputed at the committee meeting. Continue Reading

“Better training”, “more oversight”, and other technical non-solutions to police brutality

In the aftermath of revelations of police brutality/corruption/violence/abuse/extortion/entrapment/[insert your choice of awful behaviour here], defenders of institutionalized oppression are often desperate to find some way of appeasing the angry masses without actually changing the deeply broken system which led to all the outrage to begin with.

These champions of the police, a group composed of politicians, police bureaucrats, P.R. flaks and pundits, as well as the arms dealers and prison operators who thrive on the criminalization of everyday life, are powerful but not very numerous. They therefore rely on arguments and policy changes which will appease and convince enough of the populace to either agree with them or at least stop actively resisting them, so that they can get away with not making meaningful changes.

There are many tried and tested strategies available to these people. One of the most effective is the appeal to prejudice, which is to say, fear.

Continue Reading

Carding – how about we just stop doing it?

Just a thought.

I mean, there’s a “reasonable policy debate” at the moment about what restrictions should apply to police when they stop totally innocent people and collect information on them which sits in some TPS database for we don’t really know how long. Should cops be obliged to tell the (mostly young black male) people they harass that they’re under no obligation to stay put? Should the (not actually being detained) detainees be given a “receipt” detailing the interaction, or just an officer’s business card on request?

Or how about we just scrap the whole racist train wreck of a program?

The above-linked op-ed by Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail tries really really hard to make this seem like a two-sided issue, but it ain’t.

The board and the police chief, Bill Blair, were at loggerheads for months on how to reform carding. The board worried that it was souring relations with minorities, given that men of colour showed up in disproportionate numbers in carding statistics compiled in a series of articles in the Toronto Star. The chief worried that ending or severely restricting it would prevent police from gathering useful information.

Both concerns are valid. Any city wants at all costs to avoid conflict between police and minority or disadvantaged groups. But it also wants cops to be able to get out in the city and do their job.

Chief Blair said on Friday that he doesn’t want his officers just hanging around the station “waiting for a radio call to say some catastrophe’s happened” then going out to put yellow tape around the scene. Instead, he wants his officers to hit the streets to make contact with the public, build trust with the community and gather information that might help solve or prevent crimes.

Shorter Blair: We need to coerce information out of communities of colour because they’re a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Like, that’s literally what he’s saying. We need to collect information on people of colour because they’re criminals, or potential criminals, or they know criminals.

And we really are talking about communities of colour here. A lot of news reports make it sound like a matter of opinion. The Globe in particular is tone-deaf on this one – in a summary of Blair’s last police board meeting, Selena Ross writes that carding “is thought to affect minorities disproportionately”. Robyn Doolittle uses identical language in a recent article on the search for a new chief. The phrasing makes it seem like there’s room for debate.

There isn’t.

In late 2013, you were seventeen times more likely to be stopped by police in certain neighbourhoods if you were black than if you were white. Seventeen times. That’s not a thought. That’s a fact.

And it’s facts like that which has led affected communities to label carding terrorism against their community, and to call for the repeal of carding, or at least requiring officers to proactively inform people of their Charter rights at the outset of any encounter.

Let’s stop pretending like this is a hard question. Cops aren’t able to point to any tangible benefits carding has brought. It was initially designed to be an outreach program in minority communities but looks like that didn’t work out too great, did it?

So how about we just scrap the whole thing? Admit it was a terrible idea and tell the cops to stop hassling people of colour whenever they feel bored?

Just a thought.

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