Come January 1 next year, new provincial legislation to stop carding comes into effect.
But Kenneth Jeffers, the lone black member of the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) and longtime community activist, is concerned whether the new laws will put an end to the arbitrary and discriminatory street checks which have sparked widespread outrage in the black community.
“There is distrust of the police, particularly the police in uniform. There is no doubt about it,” Jeffers told the Caribbean Camera in an interview earlier this week.
Jeffers who was “nursing an injury,” was not present at the TPSB meeting earlier this month when the Board approved a revised carding policy intended to bring Toronto Police in line with the provincial regulations to come into effect in January.
But he said that before his injury, he had attended a meeting at which officials of the province explained the details of the legislation ” to cease and desist carding ”
” It (carding) is much more complex that I had realized,” he noted
” After the new legislation comes into effect, how can we determine whether carding has really ceased?” he asked.
” Let us examine a scenario in which a policeman stops a young black man who is driving his car on a almost deserted road at two o’clock in the morning. The young man has not committed an offence but the policeman asks him a series of questions about his personal life. There are no social workers around at the time. No journalists are on the scene. The young man later reports that he is carded. The policeman denies that he was carded. Who will be believed?
” And what if the policeman admits that the young man was question but says he fits the description of someone who was seen committing an offence in the area? Who will be believed?”
Jeffers suggested that to deal with such situations, support services and neighbourhood groups should be established.
“We would need persons who are available 24/7 to deal with complaints from persons who have been stopped and questioned by police,” he noted.
Discussing the transformational police task force, Jeffers said that its objective was ” not just changing practices.”
” The transformational task force is looking at how you transform the culture of the police, the value system of the police, how you look at more efficient and cost effective ways of policing without compromising safety.”
Jeffers said he had attended four or five of the official consultation on transformation and was quite surprised by ” the relatively low turnout of the black community.
” I was disappointed because we know that anti-black racism is a major issue with respect to policing.
” In fact, the turnout at meetings did not seem to attract many who had expressed open dissatisfaction with their interaction with the police.
” These include Black Lives Matter, OCAP, the Tamil community and other so-called ‘Brown Communities’, LGBTQ organizations, Muslim communities, the Chinese communities, marijuana producers, youth in general and youth of colour in particular.”
” If time permits, I believe that we should actively encourage those who may be afraid, to express their feelings anonymously or in relatively safe spaces,” said Jeffers.
” We could examine the possibility of offering neighbourhood leaders that we know, to take a lead on consultations, ” he suggested.