Group is asking minister to intervene on hiring new Hamilton police chief

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

A group of Hamilton citizens is urging Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to intervene in the hiring process for a new police chief to redress what it maintains is systemic racial discrimination in the police service.

Ken Stone, chair of the Community Coalition Against Racism, said he and four other long-time activists on race relations want a meeting with Rick Bartolucci because they have no confidence the Hamilton police board will choose the right candidate.

He said the group tried unsuccessfully to meet with the consultant hired by the board to guide the selection process and believes its concerns will otherwise be ignored.

Mr. Stone said he’d prefer to see the top job go to a person of colour, but believes at the very least an external candidate is needed to fix problems with racial discrimination and profiling.

He cited the wrongful arrest of Michael Dixon, a black man who spent four days in jail and nine months living under strict bail conditions for a jewelry-store robbery he didn’t commit, as the most prominent example of racial profiling.

A police board report last fall rejected that racism was a factor, concluding the arresting officers were instead so “overcome with investigative ‘tunnel vision’” that they disregarded other key facts, including that the suspect was described as white and that witnesses put Mr. Dixon on a GO bus at the time of the robbery.

Mr. Stone said although his group’s survey on racial profiling earlier this year generated only a dozen responses, anecdotal evidence suggests other cases abound, requiring a strong response from the new chief.

“In my opinion, the problem is boiling just beneath the surface,” he said, maintaining many complainants are fearful of stepping forward publicly.

“If there’s no intervention from outside, I would bet my boots that the candidate that they pick will be one of the internal candidates, and if that’s the case, then it’s four or five years of more of the same.”

Joe Rhodes, another member of the group and chair of the city’s committee against racism, said he’d like to see someone of colour at least considered for the job and is upset the issue is being ignored.

“Right now we’re investigating quite a few incidents that have come to our committee of (alleged) racism in the police department and some of them are very serious,” he said.

“They seem to be slipping back to 20, 30 years ago, when the police really didn’t have a lot of respect for people from other communities. Lately, I think that’s happening again.”

Police board chair Bernie Morelli said he can’t dispute people’s feelings on racial profiling, but his board is committed to finding the “absolute best” candidate to replace Chief Brian Mullan when he retires at the end of the year.

Both external and internal candidates have been considered, he said, declining to comment on the group’s request that Mr. Bartolucci intervene.

“I can’t speak to their feelings and how they’re developed, quite frankly,” Mr. Morelli said. “We’re challenged right now as a board to make sure we meet the objectives that we set out, and that’s to find a candidate that will best serve the needs of this community.”

A ministry spokesperson said Mr. Bartolucci won’t comment on correspondence with another party, but suggested ministerial intervention in the hiring process is unlikely.

“The selection of the police chief is the function of the police services board,” said Tony Brown.

Group is asking minister to intervene on hiring new Hamilton police chief

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

A group of Hamilton citizens is urging Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to intervene in the hiring process for a new police chief to redress what it maintains is systemic racial discrimination in the police service.

Ken Stone, chair of the Community Coalition Against Racism, said he and four other long-time activists on race relations want a meeting with Rick Bartolucci because they have no confidence the Hamilton police board will choose the right candidate.

He said the group tried unsuccessfully to meet with the consultant hired by the board to guide the selection process and believes its concerns will otherwise be ignored.

Mr. Stone said he’d prefer to see the top job go to a person of colour, but believes at the very least an external candidate is needed to fix problems with racial discrimination and profiling.

He cited the wrongful arrest of Michael Dixon, a black man who spent four days in jail and nine months living under strict bail conditions for a jewelry-store robbery he didn’t commit, as the most prominent example of racial profiling.

A police board report last fall rejected that racism was a factor, concluding the arresting officers were instead so “overcome with investigative ‘tunnel vision’” that they disregarded other key facts, including that the suspect was described as white and that witnesses put Mr. Dixon on a GO bus at the time of the robbery.

Mr. Stone said although his group’s survey on racial profiling earlier this year generated only a dozen responses, anecdotal evidence suggests other cases abound, requiring a strong response from the new chief.

“In my opinion, the problem is boiling just beneath the surface,” he said, maintaining many complainants are fearful of stepping forward publicly.

“If there’s no intervention from outside, I would bet my boots that the candidate that they pick will be one of the internal candidates, and if that’s the case, then it’s four or five years of more of the same.”

Joe Rhodes, another member of the group and chair of the city’s committee against racism, said he’d like to see someone of colour at least considered for the job and is upset the issue is being ignored.

“Right now we’re investigating quite a few incidents that have come to our committee of (alleged) racism in the police department and some of them are very serious,” he said.

“They seem to be slipping back to 20, 30 years ago, when the police really didn’t have a lot of respect for people from other communities. Lately, I think that’s happening again.”

Police board chair Bernie Morelli said he can’t dispute people’s feelings on racial profiling, but his board is committed to finding the “absolute best” candidate to replace Chief Brian Mullan when he retires at the end of the year.

Both external and internal candidates have been considered, he said, declining to comment on the group’s request that Mr. Bartolucci intervene.

“I can’t speak to their feelings and how they’re developed, quite frankly,” Mr. Morelli said. “We’re challenged right now as a board to make sure we meet the objectives that we set out, and that’s to find a candidate that will best serve the needs of this community.”

A ministry spokesperson said Mr. Bartolucci won’t comment on correspondence with another party, but suggested ministerial intervention in the hiring process is unlikely.

“The selection of the police chief is the function of the police services board,” said Tony Brown.

Group is asking minister to intervene on hiring new Hamilton police chief

News Oct 02, 2009 Ancaster News

A group of Hamilton citizens is urging Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to intervene in the hiring process for a new police chief to redress what it maintains is systemic racial discrimination in the police service.

Ken Stone, chair of the Community Coalition Against Racism, said he and four other long-time activists on race relations want a meeting with Rick Bartolucci because they have no confidence the Hamilton police board will choose the right candidate.

He said the group tried unsuccessfully to meet with the consultant hired by the board to guide the selection process and believes its concerns will otherwise be ignored.

Mr. Stone said he’d prefer to see the top job go to a person of colour, but believes at the very least an external candidate is needed to fix problems with racial discrimination and profiling.

He cited the wrongful arrest of Michael Dixon, a black man who spent four days in jail and nine months living under strict bail conditions for a jewelry-store robbery he didn’t commit, as the most prominent example of racial profiling.

A police board report last fall rejected that racism was a factor, concluding the arresting officers were instead so “overcome with investigative ‘tunnel vision’” that they disregarded other key facts, including that the suspect was described as white and that witnesses put Mr. Dixon on a GO bus at the time of the robbery.

Mr. Stone said although his group’s survey on racial profiling earlier this year generated only a dozen responses, anecdotal evidence suggests other cases abound, requiring a strong response from the new chief.

“In my opinion, the problem is boiling just beneath the surface,” he said, maintaining many complainants are fearful of stepping forward publicly.

“If there’s no intervention from outside, I would bet my boots that the candidate that they pick will be one of the internal candidates, and if that’s the case, then it’s four or five years of more of the same.”

Joe Rhodes, another member of the group and chair of the city’s committee against racism, said he’d like to see someone of colour at least considered for the job and is upset the issue is being ignored.

“Right now we’re investigating quite a few incidents that have come to our committee of (alleged) racism in the police department and some of them are very serious,” he said.

“They seem to be slipping back to 20, 30 years ago, when the police really didn’t have a lot of respect for people from other communities. Lately, I think that’s happening again.”

Police board chair Bernie Morelli said he can’t dispute people’s feelings on racial profiling, but his board is committed to finding the “absolute best” candidate to replace Chief Brian Mullan when he retires at the end of the year.

Both external and internal candidates have been considered, he said, declining to comment on the group’s request that Mr. Bartolucci intervene.

“I can’t speak to their feelings and how they’re developed, quite frankly,” Mr. Morelli said. “We’re challenged right now as a board to make sure we meet the objectives that we set out, and that’s to find a candidate that will best serve the needs of this community.”

A ministry spokesperson said Mr. Bartolucci won’t comment on correspondence with another party, but suggested ministerial intervention in the hiring process is unlikely.

“The selection of the police chief is the function of the police services board,” said Tony Brown.