Opinion: What are we so afraid of??
With the Trayvon Martin case on the minds of many worldwide I thought it might be right to look at the aspects of race and policing within our city and no topic locally is as racially charged as the issue of police carding or street checks.
From my observation its pretty clear that the institution of starting street checks in Toronto was borne out of the box that many people have placed the Toronto Police Services in. Many felt that the police weren’t doing enough work to stop crime within communities where there are larger portions of black and other minorities, but an equal portion felt that the police had been engaging in a practice of racial profiling by stopping and questioning many youth of those same communities.
Conventional thought by the Police is that they would be able to establish better training of officers in dealing with members of those communities and foster better connections within the community so that they could become more involved with it and resolve issues a lot sooner and as well it would help in tracking the patterns of officers and be able to better attack possible profiling issues with some officers that would need to be addressed.
Opponents on the other hand tend to believe that this is nothing more than a measure of tracking minorities and continuing to stigmatize young black males as trouble-makers who are “known to the Police”. Some have even raised the question of the constitutionality of the practice. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association states:
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed submissions with the Toronto Police Services Board to address racial profiling, and has set out the Association’s position on “street checks.” In its submissions, CCLA states that police stops, demands and recording of a person’s identity without an investigative or legitimate policing purpose (“community engagement” does not qualify as a legitimate purpose) is an unjustified and unconstitutional violation of individuals’ fundamental rights.
Now as someone who is a minority, who has been stopped like so many of these youth by police for no more reason than the car I was driving and someone who believes in our constitution, I find myself agreeing with the carding practice.
So you may ask yourself
Why would I, as a young black man be comfortable with the police recording my information with no investigative purpose.
The Police is not my adversary
I believe that the police have an extremely difficult job to do attempting to not only prevent crimes but just as equally in solving crimes. I think that the carding practice will help the police in preventing crimes because they will be more visible within the community and will have had a better opportunity to engage many members of the community helping to potentially save some members from becoming entrapped in a life of crime. More importantly Carding will help in solving crimes, one reason is because it will help give knowledge to the investigators about the community they are working in and the residents that live there, but the second reason is the most important. Engaging in the community on a more frequent basis with better knowledge and better relationships before crimes will likely lead to better, more useful information AFTER crimes are committed.
Far too many times do crimes within these communities go unsolved because residents view the police as their adversary, they keep the police at arms length and believe that the police are the problem not the criminals that are terrorizing their community. They complain that the police are “harassing” and “demonizing” their community when its the criminals that are harassing and bringing down the community. I believe that even though carding is controversial and initially will seem oppressive to some the greater good will be a safer community that sees the police as their partners not their enemy.
Now I am not naive to think that there are not some that officers that might be racist or engage in racial profiling, but unlike one opponent of carding said on Newstalk 1010’s “Friendly Fire” I don’t believe that the relationship between black people and other people of colour “Can never be fixed, can never be changed”. I believe if we are willing to engage the police as partners in this process and join with them against the real threat we all can grow, change and be better.