This week was a productive one here at Fagstein WorldMedia Ltd., so much so that I’m three days behind on reading my newspapers. Here’s what’s in Saturday’s paper from yours truly:
No racial profiling here
First up is an interview with Paul Chablo, the communications director at the Montreal police department. He’s the first anglophone to hold the job and has been trying to reach out to anglophone media. He’s also a really nice, charismatic fellow.
But we weren’t talking about him. Instead, the interview is about the police’s response to allegations of racial profiling. It was prompted by allegations from Kamrol Joseph, a 25-year-old black man who was questioned by police after stepping into the street to hail a cab in Cote-Saint-Luc last month. He refused to provide ID and was arrested so he could be ticketed. He was released after his identity was established, with a ticket for jaywalking. He went to the press.
Chablo says this wasn’t a case of racial profiling, and that Joseph only told the officers he was trying to hail a cab after he was arrested. Instead of targetting a black man in an affluent neighbourhood, they were responding to a man in the street sticking his hand out, thinking he was gesturing at police to get their attention.
Believe it or not, that’s the explanation. There were some other insightful comments he gave during the interview:
- No Montreal police officer has ever been found guilty of racial profiling. There are about 20 complaints per year, but they’re all either shown to be unfounded or inconclusive.
- A case that went in front of the ethics committee involving Gemma Raeburn, a woman who got a visit from police after neighbours mistook two black men helping her clean her garage for burglars, also wasn’t racial profiling, even though the officers who responded were sanctioned. The police ethics committee ruled against the officers and imposed short suspensions for the comments made to Raeburn, which included “bullets don’t see colour” and “why don’t you go back to your country?” Though the comments were racist, the committee said, the initial reason for the intervention was apparently considered justified from the police’s perspective.
- In addition to lots of training of new recruits, the police are outreaching to the community, employing the services of Community Contact editor Egbert Gaye as a mediator. (Despite an email asking me to verify, some well-meaning copy editor changed his email address to a grammatically correct but factually incorrect spelling. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org)
- In all cases where a complaint is brought against officers, the department likes to have sit-down meetings with the citizens and officers involved to solve the matter informally. And such meetings often work, giving people a chance to vent and clear up misunderstandings. A lot of these complaints, Chablo says, come from people who think they’ve been singled out for minor offenses, only to later learn that dozens of other people were ticketed for the same offense on the same day.
UPDATE (Oct. 23): Gemma Raeburn has a response opinion in Saturday’s paper, which takes issue with the “criminal profiling” vs. “racial profiling” comments Chablo made about her case. Some of her outrage I feel might have been my fault, as she understood from my article that Chablo supported the officers in this case. To be clear, he didn’t condone the racist remarks (and freely labelled them as such). His point was simply that this wasn’t “racial profiling” because the police were acting based on a phone call.
I dreamt I read this weird blog
This week’s blog is dream listener, a blog about the hand-painted cardboard signs being posted around the city by its author. It’s a project that started last November and runs for a year, with the author (who wants to remain anonymous due to her quasi-legal activities) writing about her dreams. An audiobook of the project is being released next Friday, with all proceeds going to the St. James Drop-in Centre.
So You Think You Can Pun?
Finally, an explainer about U.S. TV series (mostly reality shows) having their formats licensed to Canadian companies who create Canadian versions and sell them to the CRTC as Canadian content. It was based, of course, on this blog post where I wonder what this is doing to Canadian television. That, in turn, was based on news that CTV has secured the rights to make So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Apparently the Idol franchise is worth more than $2 billion.