It's long past time to make major changes to policing

Opinion Jun 15, 2020 Stoney Creek News

Defunding the police has become a catchy protest phrase that captures an emotional moment against what is believed to be an intolerable force.

The idea isn’t a new one among victims of callous police violence. In Hamilton, there have been a number of past councillors who have questioned the Hamilton Police’s budget.

The most forceful was former Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, who constantly critiqued the need for a police budget that kept on rising without benefiting the community it served. Green’s criticism was heightened after a police officer stopped him while he was walking along a downtown street. Green, Hamilton’s first African-Canadian councillor, filed a complaint against the officer for an improper street check and racial profiling.

The Police Service hearing found the officer did nothing wrong.

The result of the hearing left Green and the rest of Hamilton’s Black community “unsurprised,” considering it was an expected decision from a white power structure that has been bolstered over the years to crush opposition, especially minority voices.

Those diverse voices have repeatedly complained about being harassed by a predominately white police service where carding was a bureaucratic way of implementing racial profiling or in some cases a Canadian version of “stop and frisk.”

In large sections of Hamilton — echoed across North America — communities look at the police as an invading force who threaten the innocent and do little to curtail crime. But then there are other areas of Hamilton, predominately white and affluent, who want more policing, who consider officers a comfort against what they believe are the hordes of criminal activity migrating from the city’s downtown.

Hamilton’s diverse voices and organizations have requested, cajoled, and even pleaded that Hamilton should be using some of the police service’s $172 million 2020 budget for more constructive and preventive measures, such as mental health services, homelessness programs and youth activities. Police are not social workers. Even though the Hamilton Police has successfully operated its COAST program to deal with people with mental health issues, why should officers be involved in such delicate situations in the first place?

Any attempt at “defunding” police services should include a strategy to create a police service that no longer acts like an occupying force within a community, to retrain its members to be more sensitive and responsive to their communities and to improve its relations with the city’s diverse communities.

But blaming the police for its paramilitary attitude is a fool’s errand. It is society that has created our own Frankenstein police monster, allowing officers over the years to morph from protectors to a force that seeks to dominate the streets.

Even the governance structure of Ontario’s policing authority is in direct conflict with accountability. The structure also allows any potential innovation, such as adapting to body cameras for the police, to be simply brushed away.

The recent protests have been effective in promoting the fact that the status quo must change. But a strategy must be created to make that change a reality. The wait for change by the city’s diverse communities has been far too long. The time for institutional revolution within Ontario’s ingrained structures starts now.

It's long past time to make major changes to how policing is done

Opinion Jun 15, 2020 Stoney Creek News

Defunding the police has become a catchy protest phrase that captures an emotional moment against what is believed to be an intolerable force.

The idea isn’t a new one among victims of callous police violence. In Hamilton, there have been a number of past councillors who have questioned the Hamilton Police’s budget.

The most forceful was former Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, who constantly critiqued the need for a police budget that kept on rising without benefiting the community it served. Green’s criticism was heightened after a police officer stopped him while he was walking along a downtown street. Green, Hamilton’s first African-Canadian councillor, filed a complaint against the officer for an improper street check and racial profiling.

The Police Service hearing found the officer did nothing wrong.

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The result of the hearing left Green and the rest of Hamilton’s Black community “unsurprised,” considering it was an expected decision from a white power structure that has been bolstered over the years to crush opposition, especially minority voices.

Those diverse voices have repeatedly complained about being harassed by a predominately white police service where carding was a bureaucratic way of implementing racial profiling or in some cases a Canadian version of “stop and frisk.”

In large sections of Hamilton — echoed across North America — communities look at the police as an invading force who threaten the innocent and do little to curtail crime. But then there are other areas of Hamilton, predominately white and affluent, who want more policing, who consider officers a comfort against what they believe are the hordes of criminal activity migrating from the city’s downtown.

Hamilton’s diverse voices and organizations have requested, cajoled, and even pleaded that Hamilton should be using some of the police service’s $172 million 2020 budget for more constructive and preventive measures, such as mental health services, homelessness programs and youth activities. Police are not social workers. Even though the Hamilton Police has successfully operated its COAST program to deal with people with mental health issues, why should officers be involved in such delicate situations in the first place?

Any attempt at “defunding” police services should include a strategy to create a police service that no longer acts like an occupying force within a community, to retrain its members to be more sensitive and responsive to their communities and to improve its relations with the city’s diverse communities.

But blaming the police for its paramilitary attitude is a fool’s errand. It is society that has created our own Frankenstein police monster, allowing officers over the years to morph from protectors to a force that seeks to dominate the streets.

Even the governance structure of Ontario’s policing authority is in direct conflict with accountability. The structure also allows any potential innovation, such as adapting to body cameras for the police, to be simply brushed away.

The recent protests have been effective in promoting the fact that the status quo must change. But a strategy must be created to make that change a reality. The wait for change by the city’s diverse communities has been far too long. The time for institutional revolution within Ontario’s ingrained structures starts now.

It's long past time to make major changes to how policing is done

Opinion Jun 15, 2020 Stoney Creek News

Defunding the police has become a catchy protest phrase that captures an emotional moment against what is believed to be an intolerable force.

The idea isn’t a new one among victims of callous police violence. In Hamilton, there have been a number of past councillors who have questioned the Hamilton Police’s budget.

The most forceful was former Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, who constantly critiqued the need for a police budget that kept on rising without benefiting the community it served. Green’s criticism was heightened after a police officer stopped him while he was walking along a downtown street. Green, Hamilton’s first African-Canadian councillor, filed a complaint against the officer for an improper street check and racial profiling.

The Police Service hearing found the officer did nothing wrong.

Related Content

The result of the hearing left Green and the rest of Hamilton’s Black community “unsurprised,” considering it was an expected decision from a white power structure that has been bolstered over the years to crush opposition, especially minority voices.

Those diverse voices have repeatedly complained about being harassed by a predominately white police service where carding was a bureaucratic way of implementing racial profiling or in some cases a Canadian version of “stop and frisk.”

In large sections of Hamilton — echoed across North America — communities look at the police as an invading force who threaten the innocent and do little to curtail crime. But then there are other areas of Hamilton, predominately white and affluent, who want more policing, who consider officers a comfort against what they believe are the hordes of criminal activity migrating from the city’s downtown.

Hamilton’s diverse voices and organizations have requested, cajoled, and even pleaded that Hamilton should be using some of the police service’s $172 million 2020 budget for more constructive and preventive measures, such as mental health services, homelessness programs and youth activities. Police are not social workers. Even though the Hamilton Police has successfully operated its COAST program to deal with people with mental health issues, why should officers be involved in such delicate situations in the first place?

Any attempt at “defunding” police services should include a strategy to create a police service that no longer acts like an occupying force within a community, to retrain its members to be more sensitive and responsive to their communities and to improve its relations with the city’s diverse communities.

But blaming the police for its paramilitary attitude is a fool’s errand. It is society that has created our own Frankenstein police monster, allowing officers over the years to morph from protectors to a force that seeks to dominate the streets.

Even the governance structure of Ontario’s policing authority is in direct conflict with accountability. The structure also allows any potential innovation, such as adapting to body cameras for the police, to be simply brushed away.

The recent protests have been effective in promoting the fact that the status quo must change. But a strategy must be created to make that change a reality. The wait for change by the city’s diverse communities has been far too long. The time for institutional revolution within Ontario’s ingrained structures starts now.