News

Cops Face 'Legitimacy Crisis' as Social Media Flooded With Their Terrible Behaviour

Multiple incidents across Canada coincide with ongoing protests and campaigns aimed at defunding the police following the deaths of George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and Breonna Taylor.
June 4, 2020, 5:25pm
Defund the police protest sign; RCMP vehicle hitting suspect
Police forces across Canada have been denouncing the problematic behaviours of their members as calls to defund cops continue. Photo by Galit Rodan (left).

The Edmonton Police Service is investigating two officers after a picture surfaced on Instagram that shows the two men smiling next to an arrested person, Global News reported.

In the image, the officers are standing on either side of a handcuffed, topless man while grinning. One of the officers has his hand on the detained man’s shoulder.

According to Global, the caption under the post said, “This fine young man was so thrilled with the service we provided him, he wanted to commemorate the moment with a picture...Just kidding, he was so high he thought he was on Mars.”

EPS spokesperson Patrycja Mokrzan told Global that the force’s professional standards branch is investigating the incident, adding that the force learned of the photo on May 11.

The city’s police chief learned about the incident on June 1 and called for an investigation, she said.

“The complaint is being investigated by PSB right now and unless determined otherwise, the members remain on active duty,” Mokrzan told VICE. “I will double check on this however, as I’m not 100 percent sure.”

The infraction is one of a number that police forces in Canada have publicly denounced as widespread calls to defund the police circulate online and at protests following the killing of George Floyd, a Black Minnesota man.

In Nunavut, an RCMP officer was reassigned to administrative duties after a viral video surfaced that shows how he hit an Inuk man with his open car door and knocked him to the ground before making an arrest with help from other officers.

There are now two investigations—one external criminal one and an internal conduct investigation—looking into the matter.

In Belleville, Ontario a local police officer was caught sporting a confederate flag in a photo he posted to Facebook. On Wednesday, the force took to social media to denounce the image.

“The Belleville Police Service is aware of a post made by one of its officers on the members personal Facebook page that was offensive,” the police force said. “When we became aware of the situation, we immediately took action.” The force said the officer has since taken the post down and apologized.

The force did not respond to VICE when asked if the officer who posted the photo will be reprimanded.

It’s possible that police are publicly condemning infractions to earn the public’s trust because they’re facing a “legitimacy crisis,” said York University criminologist, Amanda Glasbeek.

“I don’t know what these police chiefs and boards are thinking, but it does certainly look like they are interested in making it look like they’re taking all this seriously,” Glasbeek said. “And they should.”

Mokrzan said Edmonton police “peers and leaders” as well as the force’s professional standard branch, the police association, and ASIRT, the only civilian-led organization she listed, hold the EPS accountable. (ASIRT has come under fire in the past for pardoning police officers too easily.)

But police need to continue holding themselves accountable—publicly—even after large-scale protests die down, Glasbeek said, adding that there’s a “real likelihood” they’ll revert back to less transparency once calls to defund police subside.

“There’s a real urgency to keep these conversations alive, including in Canada,” she said, especially since police rarely admit that forces are plagued with systemic racism.

VICE asked the Edmonton, Toronto, and Belleville police forces if they believe they have a systemic racism problem. No one responded to the question directly. Edmonton responded with a link to a two-minute video with the city’s police chief addressing the unrest in the U.S.

“If (the protests and defund-the-police campaigns) scale back in a month, this conversation has to continue,” Glasbeek said. “I haven’t heard police chiefs and mayors say that.”

Plus, Glasbeek said, we need to listen to BIPOC activists and academics who are offering solutions to policing, which has resulted in Black and Indigenous death.

In an interview with CBC, writer-activist Desmond Cole called for a shift from policing to caring.

“Disarm and defund the police,” Cole said. "The answer for the police is to stop policing and to start supporting and caring.”

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.