Residents of the oft-troubled Jane and Finch area have been trying to alter its reputation for years and on Wednesday night some were trying to do so by firing accusations of police brutality at Toronto officers inside 31 Division.
“This is our reality, stop police brutality!” dozens chanted as they marched in the dark and cold in front of division headquarters.
A community worker named Greg explained the immediacy of the problem.
“There’s been this rise in levels of incidences and in terms of the alleged brutality,” he said.
They’re bold accusations, but there were plenty of them made nonetheless.
“Some people get their face put on hot police cars, my friend just got dragged by the handcuffs,” charges a protestor named Wondas.
Along with evening march a letter was presented to officers at 31 Division (read it below). But the passionate pleas were in no way intended as an ambush. Participants even brought a peace offering in the form of a present.
“We have to make sure we’re fostering good relations between the police and the population,” explains NDP candidate Curtis Bailey.
Officers who greeted the crowd say they treat each and every incident according to protocol.
“The complaints are investigated, they’re investigated thoroughly,” insists Staff Sgt. Ken Boyle.
“At times we do have to use force in effecting an arrest, but again it’s as much force as necessary. We’re trying to make it a safe community for them we have got extra officers out on the street.”
Wednesday’s group has promised further protest action with organizers adding they hope to increase future numbers.
Below is a transcription of the letter:
In the interests of creating a safer Jane and Finch we feel compelled to request an immediate end to the ‘tough policing’ strategies currently being employed by 31 Division. These tactics are isolating and alienating our youth which is breeding a culture of disempowerment, violence and division.
We are committed to working with Toronto Police in order to create a safe Jane and Finch community, however the actions of the police over the past few months have created deep wounds and built a culture of fear amongst our residents.
The attitude and actions of officers including TAVIS towards our community have strained the relationship. Mothers are now scared to let their children out of the house for fear of violence and harassment.
Our youth are currently more scared of the police violence than they are of ‘street’ related issues. The over policing of this community has led to increased levels of targeting, harassment, racial profiling and created a fear of persecution amongst residents. The ‘serve and protect’ credo of the police is not felt in our community.
Alarming is the brazen approach of individual officers. Witnesses have accounted for what they felt was questionable conduct and or tactics.
Citizens have described seeing or hearing abusive language, threatening behaviour, the excessive use of physical force, unfounded allegations, coercion and torture.
We believe that the policies and practices of the police over the past few years have led people to feel captive in their places of residence. In order for the community and the police to work together, we need to resolve this on going issue in a fair and expeditious manner.
The community expresses a strong desire to work with the police, however, the police being in a position of power to the community, must take the lead. We advocate for a police service, not a police force.
Understand that we write this, in order to highlight the actions of individuals employed by Toronto Police, who we believe are working outside of the law. We are concerned for the welfare of our residents and hope that we can work together to strengthen police-community relations.
We advocate for policing that is respectful, professional, just and compassionate towards our community.
We believe a relationship built on trust and mutual respect will be a strong and lasting one. We look forward to working together in order to provide a peaceful future for all who live and work here.
We look forward to your response and the building of a new chapter in terms of Community-Police Relations in Jane and Finch.
Jane and Finch