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Mr.Alan Heisey, Police Services Board,City of Toronto
We have recently read in the paper that you have an interest in community policing that you bring to your position on the Police Services Board. Our concern about the disappearance of community policing leads us to write to you, and to send you the enclosed account, from our December park newsletter.
In our park it’s common for the police to approach black youth and ask them for their I.D. – so common that it has become a matter of general concern in the neighbourhood. We have tried to bring this practice to the attention of the police chief on a number of occasions. Earlier this year, a letter to Chief Fantino about yet another such incident resulted in a complaint hearing at Fourteen Division, which I also attended. After the hearing, the investigating officers sent Jutta Mason (the “complainant”) a report that not only accepted the police officers’ version completely, but also appended information about the length of the jail sentence she might get for obstructing police.
Judging by the behaviour of police in our latest incident (reported in the enclosed December park newsletter), Toronto police continue to be interested in using “obstruction” as a way to silence citizens’ concerns. In this latest case, a young woman who is well known in our community was arrested because of a computer error. Her treatment during the arrest, and the treatment of bystanders, was very unfortunate.
It’s our impression that a number of problems are at work here, as the newsletter article mentions. One is the relative youthfulness and inexperience of many of the police officers whom we see at the park. If hundreds of new officers all over the city need to prove themselves as tough and savvy and able to produce arrests, that can lead to unfortunate outcomes for a neighbourhood. In this case, a simple cell-phone call from the park to Eleven Division, to check the report of a central computer against the Eleven Division records, could have saved so much grief for the young woman and the bystanders. But a show of strength was more attractive to the officer. The call would have been made if the police officer had given some standing to the young woman’s story, or failing that, to the park worker’s story. But the officer didn’t want to listen.
That’s why we are now writing to you. Here is our request: If there is a forum connected with the police services board where community policing is being discussed, please help to bring us to that table. The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park have tried to find a cooperative way of working with police for about ten years. So far we have not got to first base. We have made great strides in addressing park safety without their help – a few years ago our park was featured for this at an international Parks conference in New York. But it’s now come to the point where the actions of police are damaging to our neighbourhood. This should not be allowed to get worse. We want to find solutions, and we look forward to hearing from you.
President, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park (416 538-6522)