Wanted: a good police watchdog

Rating: NNNNNEarlier this week, the Black Action Defence Committee, along with a number of other social activists, finally staged a.

Rating: NNNNN

Earlier this week, the Black Action Defence Committee, along with a number of other social activists, finally staged a rally in reaction to the alleged police beating of Otto Vass. That’s what passes for a police watchdog in Toronto these days — not exactly a throwback to the heady days of the Citizens Independent Review of Police Activities (CIRPA), which in the 80s kept detailed records of police complaints.

At the moment, social progressives just can’t seem to get their act together to form the proactive and potent police watchdog the city deserves.

It’s sad, especially considering that it almost came to be.

Last summer, as the police rousted the homeless out of city parks, social activists, civil liberties groups and ethno-cultural organizations were banding together in hopes of forming a much-needed and long-overdue citizen monitoring group.

My colleague Enzo Di Matteo wrote in these pages that the Law Union, the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association were meeting and even planning to hire a paid administrator and articling students to do legal research.

But by the time the police union’s True Blue campaign exploded and Julian Fantino was rumoured to be returning from his decade-long exile in hicksville, the coalition had already fallen apart.

So what happened?

“It seems nobody was coordinating it,” says Rick Sin, executive director of the CCNC’s Toronto chapter.

Instead of banding together around True Blue, the Law Union struck out on its own and the CCNC joined the Urban Alliance against the police union.

“People just basically lost interest,” says the CJC’s Bernie Farber.

The CJC and a number of other ethno-cultural groups have since held face-to-face meetings with the police to air their grievances, Farber says.

Dialoguing with the cops has become the preferred tack these days. The gay community, the black community, the psychiatric survivor community have all had their bitch sessions with Fantino.

And what have they accomplished?

Have the police stopped beating people? Have they stopped harassing gay bars? Have they stopped pulling over drivers just because of the colour of their skin?

Well, we really don’t know, since nobody’s keeping tabs on Toronto’s finest.

It’s long past time we got a pooch with some teeth.


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