Thursday, October 1, 2009

Toronto Police Deputy Chief speaks publicly about racial profiling

This week, Deputy Chief Keith Forde, who is African Canadian, spoke publicly about racial profiling. In an address to a daylong conference hosted by the Toronto Police Service entitled Racially Biased Policing: Trends & Progressive Solutions, Deputy Chief Forde had this to say about racial profiling:

"This subject matter is extremely controversial and evokes different emotions. Often, people who have made the conscious decision not to police based on stereotypes and misgivings, but on evidence and facts are lumped in with those who do. Many times discussions break down when officers feel that they have been unfairly labelled as racially profiling, when they are not.

Officers don't feel like they have the ability to have an honest dialogue about the topic of racial profiling. They will either be labelled as traitors to their peers for pointing out behaviours that would constitute profiling, or they would be seen as racists for condoning behaviour that could be interpreted as profiling.

They often wonder "how do we know racial profiling even exists?"

Well, we know because it is a lived experience that has been shared among thousands. We know because our kids, our families and our friends tell us that it exists. We know because many of us have felt the sting of racial profiling at some point in our lives and it has rocked us to the core. We know because the community – through meetings, discussions and partnerships – has vocalized its opinions on what needs to happen at the Toronto Police Service. I don't say it with pride, but with purpose that I am intimately familiar with the topic of racial profiling – as an officer, a deputy chief and a black man...

Of everything I've learned and been told over the years, I can say with confidence that the following 10 statements accurately reflect what the community wants the police to know:

The police service must stop denying that racial profiling is a reality. It is problematic and no longer acceptable in a multiracial society as it feeds into negative stereotypes about certain groups, particularly, racialized groups such as African Canadians.

Communities are not fabricating racial profiling; it is an everyday lived reality.

Police services need to be cognizant and aware of the impact of racial profiling. Over-policing of certain communities, reinforcing negative stereotypes, lack of confidence in police, and combative relationships between the police and certain communities serve to erode the public's trust.

Racial profiling is a subconscious decision. Therefore, the police need to unpack their own stereotypical thinking. They need to become more conscious of their own biases and acknowledge that we all hold biases...

It is critical for those in senior management and the leaders of the police union to stop being so defensive and in such denial about racial profiling. It is time for them to support constructive and meaningful policies and procedures to address racial profiling.

Police officers always need to check their biases and stereotypes to ensure they are policing us all fairly and equally.

Racial profiling can serve to undermine an officer's ability to properly and effectively police and protect particular communities. The communities they protect include African Canadians who are also victims. If certain communities are perceived solely as perpetrators or criminals, then the services they receive or fail to receive will also be biased.

Racial profiling undercuts trust and works against crime prevention. If communities that are profiled don't trust the police, they will fail to report crime, cooperate with the police and seek the assistance and support of police in situations such as domestic violence.

This lack of trust can have serious consequences and backlash and serves to erode the safety and well-being of certain neighbourhoods and society as a whole.

The experience of racial profiling over a prolonged period of time has eroded the trust in certain communities within the police. The responsibility and duty to rebuild this trust lies primarily with the police.

You see, this is what the community is feeling. We cannot afford to ignore their profound experiences. We also must deal with how these same experiences are having an impact on our officers... Although we uphold and maintain the law, police aren't perfect. We are bound to make mistakes and that is okay. It's part of the human experience... The important part is that we as a service learn from the mistakes that are made and address them head-on with sound policies, training, improved supervision, community involvement and accountability...

When Bill Blair was appointed chief in 2005, one of the first things he did was to bravely admit that racial profiling did exist. He also vowed to work hard to change the systems that were complicit in upholding inequalities. At the Toronto Police Service, we have developed many ways to address the issue of racially biased policing and the overarching factors of prejudice and discrimination... Now we have a better and more positive relationship and understanding with Toronto's diverse communities, which helps us to better relate and work together."

This excerpt of his address was published as an opinion piece in the Toronto Star entitled "Feeling the Sting of Racial Profiling."

No comments:

Post a Comment