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Dear Staff Sgt. Besenthal,
Another incident with a Fourteen Division officer occurred at Dufferin Grove Park on Saturday Oct.1. Officer #5649 was at the park doing special duty for part of the Native Child and Family Services seventh annual Pow Wow. At one point in the afternoon, as the officer questioned a youth, she cautioned a park staff person and several park users who were standing nearby watching, warning them to go away.
As I wrote in my recent letter to Supt. Hicks, park users and park staff have some serious concerns about police targeting of certain youth in our park, and also about statements made by some of your newer officers regarding their assumptions of danger in the park. Consequently, some park users and most park staff began, some time ago, to stand and observe police actions, whenever they occur in the park. Park staff – because they are responsible for the good order of the park – also try to check with your officers on such occasions, to find out whether there might be a problem they need to know about.
At the same time, park staff want to make sure they don’t obstruct police in their work. That’s why, last year, they had an information session with a lawyer specializing in the law pertaining to obstruction. The staff are consequently very knowledgeable about the need to not get in the way, nor to challenge your officers.
The park staff are also knowledgeable about the fact that it is their right to stand and simply observe. Your officer #5649 may not be aware of that right, or she would not have warned off both park users and park staff as they stood by, quietly and at a respectful distance, and observed. My concern about this matter is heightened by the fact that your officer then sought out the same park staff person later on and specifically cautioned her.
As long as we have our concerns about the targeting practices and assumptions made by police, both park users and park staff will continue to observe interactions respectfully whenever they arise. We believe that the situation will doubtless improve when police come to respect the role of park staff and park users in keeping good order in parks. We can help – we’d be happy to acquaint police with the nature of our park and our neighbourhood. But at this moment it seems that the interest is not there on your side. Sadly, that leaves us with only the complaints. (I’m hoping, though, that you may prove me wrong when you come to the park for a cup of coffee and a walkabout, as you suggested you will.)
In case Supt. Hicks and Staff Inspector Macleod are both still off ill, as they were when we came for our appointment to talk with them a few days ago, I am copying this letter to Chief William Blair as well. I trust that the rights of both park users and City park staff will be respected in future situations of this kind.