Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made a relatively benign concession when she agreed with Toronto Black Lives Matter protesters that "we still have systemic racism in our society." Wynne made the comments Monday in front of the provincial legislature, following weeks of BLMTO demonstrations outside Toronto police headquarters, Wynne's home, and at Queen's Park.
To most rational people, the premier was stating the obvious; admitting to the existence of systemic racism is hardly controversial, especially in light of what we know about carding, police brutality, and rates of incarceration, all of which disproportionately affect minorities.
What's puzzling then, was the knee-jerk reaction spouted by president of the Toronto Police Association, Mike McCormack. McCormack, seemingly incapable of dealing with even the slightest whiff of criticism directed at cops (more on that later), told the Toronto Sun he wants an explanation as to whom Wynne was referring.
"Is the racism in another provincial department? Or does she mean the Toronto police?" he demanded.
He went on to say it's "easy to draw a conclusion" that Wynne was talking about police because the BLM movement has focused heavily on racism in law enforcement, but he refuted that characterization as "not true and it's not acceptable to suggest it." Front-line officers are tired of accusations that they're racist, he noted.
"What I want to ask the premier is for her to show us the data that she is referring to when she says we still have systemic racism in our society."
He's right that race-based stats are hard to come by, partially because neither the police nor any formal agency in the country keep track of things like how many black people are killed by cops. The numbers we do have, often crunched by journalists after repeated FOI requests, and advocacy groups, don't paint a pretty picture—for example, in some parts of the GTA, you're 17 times more likely to be stopped by police—aka carded—if you're black. According to McCormack though, the suspension of carding is behind a rise in shootings in the city, because of "officers not having the ability to engage the public"—a claim that was rejected by Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash.
Even RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, while speaking to a group of Indigenous leaders about missing and murdered women and girls, admitted there are racists in his police force.
But McCormack's views are hardly surprising if you look at his track record.
Following the attempted murder conviction of Toronto police Const. James Forcillo, who shot teenager Sammy Yatim nine times, killing him and sparking major outrage over use of force, McCormack remarked, "clearly this sends a chilling message to our members and that's going to be a challenge for our frontline members."
Maybe it's a good thing if a cop has to think twice before unleashing a second round of fire on someone who's already severely injured/dead.
McCormack said the verdict was a "shock," which actually stands in contrast to his comments in Toronto Life that "there's a hyper-vigilance when it comes to investigating and convicting police officers."
Give me a fucking break.
Had Forcillo been found guilty of the other offence for which he was charged—second-degree murder—he would've been the first police officer in the city's history to have been convicted of murder for an on-duty killing, and an anomaly amongst Canadian law enforcement.
Then again, McCormack is the same guy who praised Toronto police officers for showing "amazing restraint" during the 2010 G20 summit. Yes, he's defending a weekend of egregious civil liberties breaches that included the illegal detainment of more than 1,000 innocent people who were kettled in the pouring rain, news photographers reporting being assaulted, and police allegedly beating a one-legged protester and taking his prosthetic. (Apparently, Ontario's Court of Appeal also disagrees with McCormack, having just granted detainees who were kettled the right to sue police.)
On perhaps the most contentious of all local police-related issues, the force's inflated $1-billion budget, McCormack is unwilling to entertain any talk of downsizing. He told Toronto Life, "we get told to go out there and do a job, we're not always given the proper equipment or budget to deal with that" and accused former deputy chief Peter Sloly of being "very suspect" for suggesting the organization could stand to lose some officers.
Fact is, Torontonians pay for 28 hours of policing a day; 4,638 officers earned more than $100,000 in 2015, up 500 from the year prior; and the force's new toys include military-grade assault rifles that critics argue are gratuitous.
As head of the Toronto Police Association, McCormack represents thousands of officers in the country's biggest force.
Clearly, he has a duty to speak up for them, which isn't in and of itself problematic. But by having a ridiculous hissy fit every time the cops are accused of wrongdoing, often ignoring facts in the process, McCormack is widening the rift between police and their detractors.
The hysterics are only making it harder for the officers he's trying to defend.
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