Chief Julian Fantino may not want a public inquiry into corruption in the force, but judging by a raucous gathering last Wednesday, April 28, on Arrow Road, there'll be no mending of black-cop relations without it. The meeting, called by the Black Action Defence Committee and the Jamaican Canadian Association at the latter's headquarters, was designed to counter Fantino's much-vaunted town hall meetings, which many here believe were mere PR fests.
From 7 pm until 10, in a noisy venting session attended by 200 during which a tin can is circulated to collect war funds for the BADC, Fantino's name is invoked over and over followed by invective. While participants charge the chief with failing to solve the string of murders in low-income neighbourhoods, the most shocking complaints link the allegations of drug squad corruption and racketeering in the force to crime and shootings in the black community.
"The Toronto police will never solve the killings, the drugs and guns will not come off the street, because the police, in my view, are implicated in some of these problems," long-time BADC activist Dudley Laws tells the crowd. "People in my community believe that the drugs are recycled by corrupt police officers who, after arresting the dealers, have young people resell the drugs for them."
This statement - some might call it paranoid or delusionary, others might want to wait until the RCMP finishes its probe before commenting - is far from the only reference to rogue police infiltrating the community. One man who refuses to give his name tells me, "Look at how the newspapers talk about corruption and crime among police and you know that this force is capable of starting a secret organization to kill our youth and enslave them in the crime underworld."
More fury is unleashed around Fantino's use of town halls to put a sheen on the force's unsuccessful probe of black crime. A woman named Mary fumes from the floor, "The police chief has set clergy against clergy, community leader against community leader, and we are now divided between those who support him and those who don't, causing people in our community to hate and suspect each other."
At last, it is agreed that the meeting will ask the police services board to order the chief "to cease and desist from his various town hall meetings that have caused conflict and division."
Activist Akua Benjamin presents more recommendations, including skills training for youth and measures from three levels of government to stop racial profiling. But the most loaded proposal is that the special investigations unit be mandated to investigate police drug, gun and racketeering offences - and the relationship between these and crimes in the black community.
No, the trials of cops gone bad will simply not be enough.