A few weeks ago, Somali Mothers Movement, a group of mothers who have been impacted or lost family members to gun violence spoke to the Toronto Police Services Board about this epidemic that has become a “crisis” in Toronto. According to them, finding a solution required more trust and transparency between their communities and the Toronto police to prevent further deaths.
This sounds good and very reasonable, but wait, there’s more!
In a presentation entitled “Mending a Crack in the Sky,” the mothers called for regular meetings with police to provide feedback on community policing as well as workshops and outreach events to build a better relationship with neighbourhood police officers. The only trouble is that the community does not trust police and are willing to harbour offenders and repeat offenders rather than turn them in. Under these circumstances, it is hard to imagine the police being able to fulfill the expectations of these Somali mothers.
Marginalized communities in cities across North America are invariably made up of mostly people of colour. Poverty, the breakdown of the family, alienation from the mainstream and other social and cultural barriers have created a culture of violence and for too long the police have been playing the role of the societal janitor, notably cleaning up the mess that was not created by them but when they start policing and being proactive, they invariably get slammed for heavy policing and charges of racism get thrown at them.
The Somali moms want the police to assign the same community officers to areas for at least three years so there can be a liaison with the community and say that currently the community is afraid of the police.
I don’t know if the average resident living in an at-risk community is more afraid of being a victim of gun violence or of the police who are there to protect them from the bad guys. No one wants to be a snitch in the community and so whenever someone is gunned down or a crime is committed in the neighbourhood, no one comes forward with any information that would lead to the police bringing the criminals to justice, very often even a gunshot victim who is nursed back to life in a hospital will not cooperate with the police and will claim he doesn’t know the people who attacked him or why he was attacked. Under these circumstances, how can the police get a handle on crime that has plagued troubled neighbourhoods?
In 2017 random carding in Toronto ended, elsewhere too, police under pressure from groups like Black Lives Matter have scaled back carding which they insist is a great tool in weeding out bad actors. BLM states black people are three to five times more likely to be stopped by police than white people. Indigenous people are six to 10 times more likely than the general population. If Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is to be believed, even he was once carded and believes racism against brown and black people is a real problem.
The reason why black and brown people end up being carded more than white people is because crime in those neighbourhoods happen to be a problem and few if any white people are to be seen living there. Police are more likely, naturally, to allocate their resources to troubled neighbourhoods than say Lorne Park, Mississauga or Forrest Hill, Toronto. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with crime statistics. Yet politicians and other social activists happily throw law enforcement officers under the bus and conclude, unfairly, that these are racists because they end up carding or arresting people of colour in larger numbers than the general population. I know black people who have never been carded ever, in a bad neighbourhood as well as in good neighbourhoods and if they did get carded, they would have no reason not to identify themselves in the interest of public safety. On the other hand, I knew a white mother who had a troubled teenage son who hung out with the wrong crowd and wore clothing favoured by gangsters. Needless to say, he was once jumped on by cops in a case of mistaken identity and on several occasions, he was carded by police. Oh, and he was white!
Getting a handle on the crime situation in these neighbourhoods will not happen by installing more basketball courts and offering more free programs for at-risk youth. If parents don’t know where their kids are at 1 am in the morning or aren’t involved in their education, the system can hardly be faulted when these kids become high school dropouts. If they hang around in strip malls and in tough neighbourhoods up to no good, sooner or later they will be victims of gun violence, in jail for some criminal act or dead. It is a given and social justice warriors who insist that all that ills these communities is the fault of institutional racism, police brutality and the lack of government resources need to be honest. This is not to say racism does not exist, even if all racism was rooted out, crime would still be an issue in these communities. -CINEWS