Probably only those who live in a cave and have no clue what the internet is are the few that have not seen or heard of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who kneeled on the neck of George Floyd.
For most who have seen and heard about the incident, it seems “obvious” to them that Chauvin is a racist police officer. The incident has motivated a torrent of protests, violence, and much discussion (some of it illogical) in regard to racism in North America. While the incident took place in the USA, even many Canadians are getting in on the discussions, suggesting our own policing in Canada, including the RCMP, is “systemically” racist. It was odd to me to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “take a knee” recently, especially when he himself relies on the security services of the RCMP, and has done so for a large percentage of his life. Even as a child, some members of the RCMP were detailed to protect him, when his father was the Prime Minister of Canada.
But I digress from the title of this post.
Was Derek Chauvin a racist cop? He is a racist?
My answer might raise some eyebrows – but I truly don’t know if he was a racist cop or remains a racist person now that he has been fired from the police force and has been charged with a crime.
But The White Derek Chauvin Killed A Black Man!
When I saw the video of what transpired, I was as disgusted as anyone else in the actions of Chauvin. And indeed, the white skinned Chauvin literally killed a black man after responding to a petty crime about the passing of a counterfeit 20.00 bill. I’m not going to bother discussing the lead up to the incident; you can read about what’s been said, here (more will come out in court, I’m sure).
What I would like to focus on is the fact that all people, of all colour, and including all political persuasion, ought to be disgusted by what happened: Police Brutality.
The charges of racism, while at first, may seem to be obvious – but in reality, it’s not. At least for me. I have no clue if Chauvin was a racist cop, or simply, a bad brutal cop. And I write that from my own personal experiences and observations.
Racism On The Toronto Police Force
I’m going to write something that will likely trigger a lot of people. I spent almost 20 years working in a role that was characterized as “Community Based Policing” in Toronto housing projects. In that role, I backed up police officers, had them back me up on occasions, trained at C.O. Bick College, conducted my own investigations and sometimes needed assistance from the Toronto Police Services (or, for most of the time I was employed, it was called the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department – MTPD for short), and often assisted various police officers from a variety of divisions and units with their own investigations.
It’s not my purpose to get into all the gory details of what we did for now, but rather to comment that I never saw what I would define as a “racist cop.”
Bad Cops Are Bad Cops, No Matter Who They Are Dealing With
I will say that I sure saw a fair share of “bad” cops. And yes, I saw some of those bad cops even use derogatory racist or ethnic terminology when describing some people – but they did this regardless of the race or ethnicity. I’ve seen some cops that are power tripping assholes when dealing with situations. In other words, there is more of a systemic brutality that goes on, and over the years, has been difficult to stamp out. But it’s not about race. When you’re a white kid being slapped around in the stairwell by a police officer, you’re feeling the same physical pain as a black kid, and I’ll be blunt and honest: I do not know if there is a higher prevalence of people of color being assaulted, when it occurs, than white people. I really don’t know.
In my personal experience however, I did not see that.
I have however, seen brutal cops take liberties with all kinds of people. And that is what must be rooted out of policing. And police officers themselves must be at the forefront of this.
My Own Experiences With Bad Cops
I’ve had my own experiences with bad cops that I’ve written about before and more recently, a horrid experience (that I have not yet written about) with a couple of members of the Orangeville Police Services (who I believe are no longer with this police force). Maybe if I were black, things would have turned out much differently – on the other hand, that would be simply conjecture. And I don’t do conjecture. When you allow conjecture to take over your thinking, you’re prone to further signs of insane thinking.
I myself, on several occasions during my work experience, have had to physically grab and threaten to arrest backup officers for their own forays toward brutality while I was a witness to it. There was no way I was going to allow things to escalate the way they were – and while that did not always make me very popular, its one of the reasons why I often preferred to work alone, without anyone backing me up.
Bad Cops Need To Be Rooted Out
There are good police officers out there. There are good police officers of every colour, race, and creed. There are also some bad police officers, of every colour, race, and creed. Identifying this for what it is: bad policing – is in my opinion, the most important thing and the first step to reducing or eliminating these horrible incidents that come up that involve unjustified deaths, shootings, and injuries.
Some of the training needs to be fixed as well. When I was growing up, my father who had worked with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland, and then with Vaughan Township Police (this police service no longer exists, having been amalgamated with other small police forces to become York Regional Police), taught me Peel’s Principles. He himself was pretty disgusted with some of the policing tactics in Canada. He eventually left the police officer.
Even while training myself at C. O. Bick College in Toronto, I felt some disgust at the way our training officers would try to hammer the idea that “we are our own gang” with zero emphasis on the philosophy of policing being “the police are the public and that the public are the police.”
Is There No Racism On Canadian Police Forces?
I am not trying to make an argument that there is zero racism among Canadian police forces. I just never experienced what I would term “racism” when in fact, I just saw bad cops being bad cops, and using whatever they could, including racist remarks, taunts, in being bad cops. But these same cops were equally as bad to others as well, but in different ways. The cop that would make racist comments toward the black kid was the same cop that would find other ways to brutalize the white kid.
Trying to suggest that the horrible occurrences that do occur such as what happened to George Floyd, that its proof of “systemic racism” is really incorrect. In fact, even through all the “Race Relations” seminars I’ve been on, I’ve never yet even had “systemic racism” explained to me precisely, or pointed to, in reality. I can recall sitting my good friend, an ex-police man from England, who was also a person of colour, and both of us together, trying to ask questions and understand what the seminar leaders were talking about precisely, was for both of us, frustrating. What was taught in those seminars might make for an interesting post at a later date, but for now, the suggestion of “systemic racism” is a bit ludicrous to me, at least in my experiences in Toronto and Canada.
But that does not mean I think there are zero racist police officers in Canada.
But for me, the bigger goal is to root all the bad cops and improve training.
Should I have offered him a drink of water?
On the note of improved training, I can recall following the trial of Constable James Forcillo after he shot and killed Sammy Yatim. One of Forcillo’s responses to being questioned under oath still remains with me, and while I do not recall his exact words, they were something like, “What was I to do, offer him a drink of water?”
And when I heard that, I exclaimed out loud to anyone listening, “Yes you jerk! That is EXACTLY what you should have done!”
Forcillo was a bad cop with poor training. I myself have attended many calls that were of the same nature that Forcillo attended, and managed to peacefully and without injury, de-escalate those situations by exactly asking questions such as “Can I do something for you? Can I help you get a drink of water?” Of course, this goes against the idea that many police officers have today – which is sad.
Is Racism The Right Question?
The point of my writing here is to muse that perhaps the wrong questions are being asked, or the wrong allegations are being made. It is sad to me to hear of any police brutality or often, horrible mistakes in judgement (yet I’ve witnessed many occurrences where attending police officers have done a marvelous job) regardless of skin colour, race, or creed.
Perhaps we need to look beyond the appearances and dig deeper, and get rid of the sub-culture within policing that views themselves as not part of the citizenry, that has ignores that the citizens are also the police, and totally wipe that cancer out of policing in North America and anywhere else it exists.