Racial profiling--the U.K. experience
by Arthur Weinreb
April 28, 2003
On April 16, the Ontario Court of Appeal handed down its decision in the case of former Toronto Raptors player Dee Brown. Brown was driving down the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto one night when he was pulled over for allegedly speeding. The officer who stopped him detected that he had been drinking, and Brown was subsequently charged with impaired driving.
At trial, Brown, who is black and was driving an expensive car, advanced the argument that his Charter rights were violated because he had been the victim of racial profiling. The trial judge refused to listen to the argument, convicted Brown, and fined him $2,000. The conviction was quashed on appeal and the Crown appealed that decision to the provinces highest court.
In a unanimous decision, the three-member Court of Appeal dismissed the Crowns appeal and ordered a new trial. The Court held that while the onus is on the accused to prove that he or she had been racially profiled, the concept of racial profiling nonetheless exists and need not be proved in every case.
Needless to say, opinion on the Courts ruling was mixed. Toronto Police Association President Craig Bromell said that police might sit in their cars and brush up on rules, regulations, French, and Spanish rather than police the black community. Jim Coyle, a columnist for the Toronto Star, which is being sued by the Toronto Police Association for $2.6 billion for its "Race and Crime" Series, wrote a column under the heading: "Bromell huffs and puffs and blows his credibility." Coyle compared Bromell to Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, Iraqs former Information Minister, who attained near-cult status with his descriptions of U.S. troops committing suicide in their tanks outside of Baghdad, a city that they never entered.
Ten years ago, Stephen Lawrence, a 19-year-old black male in the U.K. was waiting at a bus stop when 5 or 6 white males hurled racial insults at him. They then crossed the street, surrounded Lawrence, and fatally stabbed him. Successful prosecutions were never brought, despite the fact that there were known suspects. Police inaction was blamed on systemic racism and this led to the formation of "The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry," whose report was presented to the British Parliament in February 1999. One of the recommendations that came out of the report was that police record all "stops," even if they are voluntary, provide the person stopped with a card listing races, and have that person self identify their race. Police procedures in London say that police need only keep records if a person was stopped and searched, or arrested.
Even before the report was tabled, the inquiry and racial profiling received a lot of attention in the media. Police searches in London decreased from 27,289 in August 1998, to 11,358 the following month. The number of searches rose to 15,136 in October 1998, still well below the August total. In before and after comparisons, violent offences rose from 136,549 to 156,860 and robberies increased from 26,330 to 36,317. Incidents of purse snatches in London rose from 8,644 to 11,125.
The conclusions that were drawn from the London experience was that while crime is a complex matter, and other reasons may have had some effect, the reduction in searches was due mainly to the lowering of police morale and an unwillingness on the part of individual police officers to confront persons of colour and risk being accused of racial profiling.
People like the Stars Coyle can have a good time calling Craig Bromell names (" the artless potty mouth") and comparing him to the former Iraqi Minister, but the fact remains that police tend to back off in certain situations rather than be accused of racial profiling. Jim Coyles column, like the "Race and Crime" series, seems more interested in cop-bashing than in the realities of racial profiling.
There will be consequences on the street of the Ontario Court of Appeals decision, just like there were in England, regardless of what Craig Bromell does or doesnt say.
Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Men's News Daily, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck and The Rant. Arthur can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org