c.e. taillefer

July 8, 2016

Police Brutality and You: A Primer for Brantford Citizens

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Bit of a rough post today, but one that I hope will be helpful.  This is gathered together from the tips at this fantastic post on Ravishly, “What you can do right now about Police Brutality” (and my hat is off to Lora for sharing the Ravishly post today.)

  • Educate yourself on your city’s police conduct review process.

The City’s page for Complaints and Concerns about the Brantford Police Service states that “The Brantford Police Service views the complaint process as a means of maintaining public accountability, correcting police misconduct, and improving police services to the community.”  Complaints must be made within six months of the incident, so there is a time limit.  You can choose to speak with someone in person (the informal complaint process) at the BPS office, on 344 Elgin St., Brantford, ON, or

file a complaint online through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director – this is considered the formal complaint process, although there are alternative modes of resolution offered, including mediation.  The IPRD is a civilian lawyer who formerly served on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and Executive Director of Legal Aid Manitoba.    The website includes an online form, accessible PDFs of both the form, and the pamphlet on how to make a complaint.  However, it is noted on the investigations page: “If, during the course of the investigation, the Director discovers evidence that an officer may have committed a crime, the matter will be referred to the police for further investigation.”  Kind of a problem, no?

In Ontario, there are also the Special Investigations Unit, and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission that offer independent, civilian investigative bodies for police conduct.  The entire text of the BPS complaints by-law is online, but highlights the gaps wherein all decisions tend to be made first by the Police Board, including the decision to bring a complaint to the OCPC.  The Brantford Police are represented by the Brantford Police Association in contract negotiations. (Unfortunately, the link wasn’t working today, so I can’t confirm the information found there on their roles in conduct review processes.)

There are some definite gaps and ambiguities in this process that should be clarified and detailed, with civilian input and oversight.

  • Pressure your mayor and city council to address gaps in this process.

The Brantford Police Services Board appears to meet monthly outside of the summer season, and you can find details, including times and locations on the City Calendar.  Unfortunately for those working day jobs, they are all in the afternoons on weekdays.  Worse, the link to Agendas and Minutes from previous meetings is dead, which I’ve emailed them to correct, and you can find the archived minutes searching the BPS website. City Council meets on a biweekly basis and is another place to bring up issues of police oversight in the city.  The aforementioned site includes contact information for the City Council clerk if you wish to submit agenda items. There’s also an  RSS Feed Link that lets you subscribe to any of the public committee meetings.

The Brantford City Mayor is Chris Friel, and you can find out who your ward councillors are on the City’s website. This map will show you what ward you live in, if you’re not sure. Oluo states in the Ravishly essay, “Don’t just ask once. Ask and follow up regularly.”  Ask what you can do to contribute to the processes that shape community services, outreach and policing.

  • Vote for reform-minded city government.

“Make police reform a requirement for your vote.”  Elections are held on a four-year cycle in our city.  The last city elections were in 2014.  This gives us two years to make this issue important to people running for elected offices.  Judges are not elected at the municipal level, and the next provincial election is not until 2018, so in the meantime, we should probably focus on the government we have and putting pressure on them to adapt.

  • Write to your representatives.

Our MP for Brantford is Phil McColeman (CON).  You can write him at:

Email: phil.mccoleman@parl.gc.ca

Constituency Office
Summer Hours – July & August -Monday-Thursday 8:30am-4:00pm Friday 8:30am-1:00pm
108 St. George Street, Suite #3
Brantford, ON  N3R 1V6
t: 519-754-4300
f: 519-751-8177
Ottawa Office
The Valour Building, Rm 850

Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6
t: 613-992-3118
f: 613-992-6382

Our MPP is Dave Levac, and you can contact him at:

Queen’s Park
Room 180, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
Tel 416-325-6261
Fax 416-325-6358
Constituency
Suite 101
96 Nelson Street
Brantford, Ontario N3T 2N1
Tel  519-759-0361
Fax  519-759-6439
dlevac.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

  • Know your right to record police encounters.

Despite filming police encounters being entirely legal (and brutality being captured on film doesn’t appear to affect sentencing of cops who murder), it may be that an officer will try to confiscate your recording device.  There are a number of apps available now that allow users to film discreetly, or uploads to the cloud as it records, preventing someone from erasing the data.  Copblock has a huge list of these kinds of apps; while some are US-related specifically, like PocketJustice, many are region-free.

  • Support legal defense funds and activism groups.

I’ve mentioned this on Facebook, because #BLMTO not wanting to sell their shirts to allies has been kind of a “thing”, but don’t ask what you think they want you to do – ask them what they need. As allies, it’s important our desire to do good (and be seen doing it) doesn’t do more harm than anything else.  The community knows what it needs – they even had a list of demands ready to present at Pride.  Follow them on Twitter, or Facebook and see what kinds of requests for aid they’re making – and do that!

There’s also Disarm Toronto Police, and “Affected Families of Police Homicide” (no known website, but affiliated with #BLMTO) for semi-local activist movements.  Many students at Laurier Brantford’s campus are motivated, passionate people with a desire for social justice and change, and there are always groups needing support there during the school year.  First Nations peoples are particularly vulnerable to police abuses, as the #MMIW movement has revealed the complicity of federal, provincial and municipal forces in the death and assault of aboriginal men and women. Both Turtle Island News and the Two-Row Times are good places to keep your eyes and ears peeled for news of activist groups, or people in need of legal defense funds.

This post barely scratches the surface of what we, as allies, can do.  But it’s a start – and I hope with some of the research legwork done laid out in one spot, people will be encouraged to get out, agitate for reform and ask for strong statements from our city leaders and police services that condemn racist police actions, and express their committment to ending police brutality and abuses. Things have to change. We can’t let our brothers and sisters live like this any longer. They’ve made their demands clear.  Will we stand with them?

August 3, 2014

Action Item: Writing a Letter about Palestine and Israel

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Earlier this week, shortly before news that the Israeli Armed Forced had bombed a UN shelter full fo sleeping refugees, I had gone searching for information on writing to my government representatives about their abhorrent stance on the current horror in Gaza. Unfortunately, Amnesty International (a great site!) only had information on how to write to Secretary of State, John Kerry about the issue, and nothing for Canadians.  (Americans, you can find that here.)

A few emails to a colleague pointed me towards John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with a copy of the letter addressed to Stephen Harper.  You can find John Baird’s contact info here, and Stephen Harper’s here.  I encourage everyone who can to do the same!  It’s not much. It feels like painfully little. Nonetheless, every extra bit of pressure is needed.  I’ve included a copy of my letter below as a possible template.

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