EDITORIAL: Police bigotry, racism, a systemic problem

Are the homeless justified in their fear and anxiety over local police forces in Toronto and Durham?

Recently, an accounting about an incident involving the homeless described the police officers as arrogant, aggressive, and antagonistic when interacting with the homeless in Frenchman’s Bay West Park. The homeless found the officers to be aggressive in manner and intimidating in their interaction with the homeless. This kind of behaviour is heard too often from people interacting with the local police, often enough to suggest there may be a systemic problem.

Repeatedly, police are described as being overly aggressive in dealing with the homeless, communicating with them in a very authoritative and overbearing manner. These situations are difficult to corroborate as descriptions by homeless people can be tainted, subjective and biased based on past experiences. However, with so many repeated descriptions, the possibility that the police may be overly aggressive with the public should not be dismissed.

Police in uniform, dressed in their typical defensive and standard gear, can be intimidating just in appearance alone. Add in when officers identify themselves in aggressive and assertive ways, they become forces of fear and intimidation to the people with whom they are dealing.

There are too many incidents as above to dismiss the possibility that the police force has systemic bigotry and bullying problems.

The local police forces may be aware of these public fears and may be addressing the issues. However, the public knows nothing about how the police forces are addressing the problem. Are they even addressing the problem?

When hearing about a homeless incident on the walkway overpass crossing the 401 in Pickering to which the suggestion was made to phone 911, an executive of DARS, (a local social assistance group) quickly rejected the suggestion explaining the aggressiveness of the local police as a feared but too common occurrence. If this is true, the local police forces need to deal with this systemic issue post haste.

The view the police want to project is one of care and assistance, peaceful regulation and resolution of problem incidents occurring in public. The police should not be feared. The police should not be seen as bullies or even worse, as threats. If the local police forces are not dealing with this negative image held by many in the public now, they should be.



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