An entire community under constant suspicion in the eyes of officers whose perceptions are colored mostly by racism and ignorance….
Accusations of abuse and lingering distrust continue to define the troubling relationship between the Montreal police department and our community.
It seems to be an almost weekly routine for a Black person to be in the news as a victim of heavy-handed treatment by police officers, with their complaints usually treated with scant disregard by those in authority, either in the department or their political bosses.
Here and there, one or two might be granted a cash award for their pain and humiliation, but for the most part not much has been done to change the dynamics that place an entire community under constant suspicion in the eyes of officers whose perceptions are colored mostly by racism and ignorance.
Consequently, the community remains an easy target for abuse and unnecessary criminalization, which are the fallouts of incessant racial profiling and over-policing.
And no one, young or old, man or woman, is insulated from this nasty behavior, making it difficult for our community to maintain a trusting relationship with the one institution that should be at our disposal for assistance in instances of crisis or emergencies.
So the conversation continues in the same vein, as we move into a new year, 2019, the same tone that 2018 ended: The Quebec Human Rights Commission awarding up to $86,000 to a South Shore family after two teenagers and their mother were abused in 2013, because the boys were accused of jaywalking.
The mother, Dominique Jacobs said the boys were on their way home when the police stopped, searched and roughed them up before taking them to the family residence where she too suffered a litany of verbal abuse at the hands of the officers. All because the kids were suspected of jaywalking or “walking while Black,” which is the flippant and regrettable terminology now associated with such incidents.
The commission recommended that the Longueil Police Department and the officers involved compensate the family.
And the non-binding recommendations will now go to the Human Rights Tribunal for a final decision. It could be years before the case is settled.
And so it goes, another instance of blatant abuse of power, and as usual police officers not being held accountable.
Sadly, throughout 2018 there were many other instances of this type of abusive give-and-take between police and Blacks, and almost always the community is left licking its wounds as those in authority pay lip service to what for us has become a malaise in society.
How else can it be described when just a casual perusal of the news shows troubling incidents such as:
• two teenagers and their mother terrorized unnecessarily because they allegedly jaywalked or
• a Black man being unreasonably jacked-up by the police as he was leaving a bar in Old Montreal or
• a guy and his partner manhandled at a downtown celebration because he honked his horn too loud or
• an unfortunate and obviously troubled kid ending up dead at a street corner in NDG because he disobeyed an order to put down a knife or
• a biracial couple roughed up and arrested for what they claim to be “no just cause.’
This litany of abuse of power goes on and on, to the extent that a Harvard University professor, Dr. Anne Marie Livingstone, has called on the Montreal Police department to apologize to our community for the unnecessary stress and anguish it has heaped on Blacks over the past decades.
Her three-year study conducted in the highly diverse neighbourhood of St. Michel and laid out in a report titled #MtlSansprofilage, show young Blacks and Latinos suffering under an astounding level of racial profiling and over policing.
Dan Phillip and his team at the Black Coalition of Quebec has seen more than their share of police abuse and other injustices to the extent that they are preparing to launch a $4 million class action lawsuit against the police and their bosses on behalf of about 500 people who claim to have been profiled by the police.
Over the years there has been repeated calls for the department, the City Of Montreal and the provincial Public Security minister to stand with our beleaguered community and hold abusive officers accountable.
So far: rien, nada, crap-all … nothing in any language.
They wouldn’t even stipulate that officers collect racial data on people they routinely stop, just so that we can gauge.
That’s why so many are disbelieving and un-trusting when the newly installed Police chief, Sylvain Caron, brought forth what he called a three-year strategy to eliminate profiling.
For the most part the plan, unveiled in December 2018 as Caron was about to assume leadership of a department that has been in a lingering state of instability, was met with skepticism by community advocates.
After all being there, heard that.
There have been a lot of empty promises in the past, especially when an unfortunate community member dies at the hand of the police.
Now the chief is saying that he wants more minorities in the force and better relations with the community, along with a promise to move toward the collection and release of racial data.
Because so many have suffered and continue to suffer humiliation and pain at the hands of the police, we can only wait and see.
But change will not come easily or quickly. So it’s incumbent that we remain vigilant and continue to demand respect and accountability from those who might not think we deserve it.