The Black Rod

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

U of M Prof has a secret agenda for her cop-bashing research

What's that saying? You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

Somebody tell that to University of Manitoba professor Elizabeth Comack, who demonstrated Wednesday that being a tenured academic means you can live in your own little fantasy world and still collect a big fat paycheque from the taxpayer.

Comack was disturbed by the facts of the Matthew Dumas Inquest. It turns out the facts don't fit into Comackland.

So she simply invented new facts.

And the Winnipeg Free Press gave her an op-ed slot to spew her divisive theories under the headline "Racialized Policing."

Judge Mary Curtis heard the evidence and ruled that Matthew Dumas bore all the responsibility for his own death.

He was on the run from a warrant for his arrest. He suckerpunched a police officer. He approached another policeman with a screwdriver in his raised hand and refused to drop it despite repeated warnings. He threatened to stab one witness, then lunged at the officer to stab him too. Only then was he shot and killed by the policeman in self-defence.

Race had nothing to do with the death of Dumas, said Curtis.

It's different in Comackland.

In the blinkered mind of Elizabeth Comack, Dumas was so obviously a victim of racism it hardly needs to be argued.

"Like too many young aboriginal men, Matthew had been subject to a police stop because he "fit the description." Knowing the fear, distrust, and resulting hostility of police among aboriginal people helps in understanding why it might be that Matthew decided to run from an officer," she wrote.


Dumas ran because he didn't want to go back to jail.

He was a familiar face at the Manitoba Youth Centre. His most recent charge was for possessing a dangerous weapon. He was out of jail barely three months later and he had already breached his probation. He was armed with a screwdriver, though the police didn't when they spotted him and he bolted. Was he planning on tightening some screws? Or stealing a car?

Oh, is that a racist assumption? Why should we assume that a criminal like Dumas would be involved in criminal acts?

Oh, and Dumas was shot by a Metis police officer. And the witnesses to his interactions with police in the minutes before he died were predominately aboriginal. Judge Curtis noticed that. Comack ignored it.

"For the past five months I have been engaged in a research project that involved interviewing aboriginal people about their experiences with the police," said Comack to give some credibility to her inflammatory accusations against the police.

She failed to mention that her research partner is Nahanni Fontaine, the "director of justice" with the Southern Chiefs Organization, who has written that gang members should be accepted as "family" and that police are tools of the state to enforce colonial interests.

You can guess how objective that research is.

Comack said she and Fontaine interviewed 79 aboriginal people for their research project.

"Aboriginal men who live in the inner city are regularly stopped by police and asked to account for themselves. Asked "What did I do wrong" the typical response from police is "You fit the description."

Uh, and your point is...? The description of criminal suspects is too often "male, aboriginal in appearance, black hair, blue jeans, tattoos on neck or arms, and wearing a hoodie" or some other gang outfit.

Did Comack bother to ask some relevant questions of her interviewees?

Like, how were you dressed? What time were you stopped? At 8 in the morning when you were going to work or at 3 a.m. after the bars close? Were you on probation? Parole? Are those gang tattoos on you neck or did you spill some ink on your shirt?

The rules are simple. If you dress like a gang member, expect to be treated like a gang member. If you're acting suspicious, expect to attract police attention. Matthew Dumas learned that the hard way. We addressed this question in more than a year ago in The Black Rod, July 19, 2007 "Wrong. Wrong. Wrong."

"The city spends a lot of money maintaining sidewalks and street lighting, so people who walk down back lanes should expect to be stopped."

"People with jobs or who go to school aren't ususually found walking the street at 3 a.m. People on the street at pub-closing time are not breaking the law, but they should expect to be questioned."

"People can legally wear the clothes they want, but if you're wearing gang clothing--bandanas, I Live Tupac t-shirts, your baseball cap backwards and you don't look like you play baseball--- you're demonstrating that you identify with the values of these outlaw groups, and you should expect to be stopped."

"If you're on parole, on probation, or on the street with a criminal record, you've demonstrated a propensity to commit crimes, and you should expect to be stopped. Quit whining. You should have thought of that before you decided on breaking the law."

Comack wrote,"Aboriginal women reported that they cannot walk to the grocery store without being stopped by police who assume they're prostitutes."

That's probably because the neighbourhoods where these women live are infested with aboriginal prostitutes. In those neighbourhoods mothers complain their daughters, of all ages from 10 to 19, can't walk to school without being solicited. They want more police to deal more aggressively with the pimps and johns and street whores.

Why do we suspect Comack and her pal Nahanni never interviewed a single one of those mothers?

"Drugs, gangs and violence are pressing problems in the inner city. But strategies that police use to deal with them can be problematic. Several told of being picked up and coerced to tell the names of people in the drug trade."

Oh, horrors. Police trying to identify drug dealers. What's this world coming to?

Somehow we don't think police sweep up people at random and give them the third degree, although that's the impression left by Elizabeth Comack. What if the police picked someone up on some charge or other and leaned on him to give up a crack dealer or two? That's wrong, how?

Only if you're a university professor who thinks aboriginal men should be stand-up bro's who never rat on anyone. Word.

"Several were offered money." sniffed Comack.

Uh, Liz. It's called Crimestoppers. Maybe they've heard about it in the sociology department of the University of Manitoba. Ask around.

Comack had to do some fancy footwork to spin the facts to fit her perverted world view.

"Part of the problem is the racialized frames that police use to interpret situations," she wrote to introduce one anecdote: A man visited his stepsons. They went to buy cigarettes. One stepson was stabbed by "a man on a bicycle." The wounded man was taken home and an ambulance was called.

"When police arrived they (wouldn't listen to how the man was stabbed and) simply assumed that this was the proverbial "aboriginal drinking party" that had turned violent," Comack huffed.

Why would they think that? Maybe because here was a group of grown men "having a celebration" (as Comack so carefully framed it) at 3 a.m. when one of them was stabbed.They said he was stabbed somewhere else but instead of using the phone at the gas station/ scene of the crime to call an ambulance, he was allegedly taken back to the party house.

It makes perfect sense--to someone studying inner city life from the ivory tower.

Elizabeth Comack was described by the Winnipeg Free Press as a professor of sociology at the U of M and a research associate with the (far left) Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She is actually the Department Head of her faculty. But that hardly tells the real story.

Back in May (2008), Comack made a keynote address at the Joseph Zuken Memorial Association Award Evening hosted by the CCPA. Her topic--"Whose Law and What Order?" There, among friends, she revealed the real motivation behind her "research."

"The title for my talk tonight actually comes from a book called Whose Law? What Order? Published in 1976, the book was authored by a noted American criminologist, Bill Chambliss, and was one of the key works in an area known as radical criminology. Radical criminology drew its inspiration from Marxism. It came to prominence in the 1970s as part of the rise of the New Left in academia. At that time I was a young university student and my work - including my honours thesis, Master’s thesis, and PhD dissertation - was very much influenced by this approach."

".. in following on the Zuken tradition I want to use tonight as an opportunity to get back to my own “Marxist roots” - especially in terms of exploring how a Marxist or class analysis can inform our understanding of some of the issues that seem to be so prominent in the media these days. "


"I think we need to seriously question why this call for more ‘law and order’ is happening. What kind of ‘law and order’ are we talking about? And will more ‘law and order’ actually resolve the pressing social issues that confront us?

I believe that a Marxist analysis can assist us in getting a handle on these kinds of questions. Adopting a Marxist approach means that we put the issue of the class inequality under capitalism front and centre."


" So it seems that more ‘law and order,’ ‘getting tough’ on crime, ‘zero tolerance,’ ‘cleaning and sweeping,’ and increased surveillance are being touted as the solutions to the social problems of our times. In Marxist terms, these initiatives could be interpreted as an effort to use the strong arm of the state to bolster a capitalist social order. And it’s pretty clear that such initiatives are being directed at those who are the most marginalized and oppressed within that social order."

It's certainly illuminating to learn that sociology students at the University of Manitoba are being indoctrinated into proper Marxist ideology. And that's a fact, Jack.

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