The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let's talk about racial profiling and the Winnipeg Police Service

The ugly topic of racial profiling was raised again this weekend by a Winnipeg Free Press columnist who has filed a complaint against the Winnipeg police on behalf of her son.

From the details provided by the newspaper, it's clear somebody's guilty of the offence of racial profiling, but it's not who you think -- it's their own writer, Colleen Simard.

Simard's sad tale involves her 14-year-old son who was stopped by police, frisked, questioned and sent on his way some day recently. (The 'when' of a story doesn't seem to matter to newspapers anymore.)

Simard declares she recognized immediately what happened.

"Not every brown kid in dark clothes is a criminal. To treat them all like that is racial profiling."

"Police shouldn't be grabbing kids in back lanes and pushing them against fences. They shouldn't be searching them and treating them like they're already guilty of a crime."

The simplest details in her column, which are all provided by her son and only her son, demonstrate that the police in the case were doing their job properly and professionally.

* They saw three teenagers in dark clothing walking down a back lane near sundown and decided to see what they were doing.

Why were they in the back lane? Who lurks in back lanes?
Gang members who spraypaint garages, do.
Drug dealers love the privacy of back lanes.
Prostitutes, of course.
Car thieves scouting out targets.
Thieves checking out garages and empty houses.
Arsonists, doing the same.

Most decent people use the sidewalks to go from place to place, not the back lane. If you're going to take the lane late in the evening you might as well carry a neon sign saying "Suspicious? Me?" So immediately the police had questions. Like 'who are you?' and 'where are you going?'

Oh, look, those are the exact questions they asked Simard's son and his pal.

* We stress pal, because one of the trio disappeared. Simard says he "had gone into another friend's house---their destination---just before the unmarked pulled up."

Really? Or had he ducked into the yard when he spotted the police? And, didn't you say your son was expected home at 9 p.m. but was late because he was being rousted by police? But if he was going to a friend's place, he wasn't coming home for curfew, was he?

A few loose threads to this story, already, Colleen.

* Turning back to the back lane.... The police identified themselves. "We're cops." One officer turned her son around and patted him down, asking "Do you have any weapons?" A reasonable question to a suspicious person in the back lane in that neighbourhood.

Only a week or so earlier a 20-year-old man was arrested in the same area and charged with possessing a restricted firearm, two counts of careless use of a firearm and failing to comply with recognizance (three counts).

And it wasn't far from this very location that Matthew Dumas sucker-punched a police officer---in a back lane---minutes before trying to stab him with a screwdriver he had hidden on him.

Simard says a woman came out of a house and vouched for the boys. The officer took some particulars--age and address-- exactly what you want police to do with suspicious people in back lanes, just in case they learn later of a break-in, mugging, car theft, robbery in the area.

* A final question. "Are you breaching?" The boy took offence. "I don't live in a group home." But given the epidemic of youth crime in Winnipeg, a reasonable question. Police have found that simply asking the right question can bring astounding results.

How many teens stopped in a North End back lane would have to answer "Yes" to that question?

And that was that.

No allegation of racial slurs. Just a routine stop of some people who raised suspicion by virtue of their presence in a back lane.

And, perhaps more significantly, in that part of the North End, it's hard to stop anyone who isn't an Indian. (We'll use Simard's own terminology. After all, she is the publisher of something called Urban NDN {Indian, get it?}.)

Despite Simard's racial spin, it's obvious that the police were doing their job, keeping her neighbourhood safe.

They didn't stop him because he was "a brown kid", but because he was walking down the back lane in a neighbourhood where people in back lanes are not always just putting out the garbage. But Simard can't see the benefit to her community because she's blinded by race.

Everything in her perspective is tainted by race, including public safety. So what does she do? She profiles.

The police are white. They're bad. They're picking on Indians.

That argument got old long ago.

The most recent survey of public opinion in the North End and the City Centre, by the soon-to-be-extinguished Winnipeg Police Advisory Board, found that residents welcome the police, want more of them, and want them to be more pro-active in deterring gangs and criminals.

It seems the only complaints about police come from the section of the native community that produces most of the gangs and criminals.

That's only logical. When Daddy's in and out of prison, and little sister is a crack whore, and baby brother runs with the Indian Posse, then you can see how they perceive the police as the enemy.

But it's when Marxist university professors and spokesmen for Indian associations and newspapers embrace the criminals and deviants as the norm, that problems arise. Colleen Simard exposes this attitude in her column.

She writes that her son is forced to wear dark clothing because gangs attack anyone wearing "wrong colours." She says he has to watch out for the gang members, and yet she's not critical of these gangs. Just the opposite.

She somehow doesn't realize that the reason police are patrolling back lanes is because of those very gangs. The police are there to make her son safe, to make her whole neighbourhood safer. That's what she should have told her son.

That, and walk on the sidewalk.

Other communities in the city are begging for more police attention, but here she has it -- and she blames the police, not the criminals.

She wrote about Matthew Dumas in a previous column. Dumas, you'll remember, was a drugged up car thief who took off when he spotted police, fought with an officer in a back lane, pulled a screwdriver (the car thief's best friend) and refused to stop advancing on a policeman until he was shot two times.

Maybe, wrote Simard sympathetically, he was driven to it by his previous interactions with police. Yes, that's right; they arrested him repeatedly. He hated police because they kept throwing him in jail and wouldn't let him steal what he wanted when he wanted. But to Simard, Dumas was the victim, and the police were the enemy.

Racial profiling, anyone?

By all accounts, her son is not a bad kid. He goes to school, stays away from gangs, and even showed an interest in the U.S. presidential election, demonstrating his intelligence. He's not dumb, but if he follows his mother's lead he will be stupid.

There have been news stories lately of a move by Child and Family Services to seize some children from their parents who are white supremacists. What about a mother who fosters fear of the police and unwarranted anger at white society? Isn't that child abuse?

Simard has filed a complaint of racial profiling against the Winnipeg police. How does one file a complaint of racial profiling against a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press? And just how will the FP handle her column, now that she has an obvious personal conflict-of-interest regarding the police?

Saturday's column was an excellent example of how columnists abuse their access to the media to push their personal agendas. She ended her column demanding to meet the police officers who questioned her son. Obviously she was intending to write another column about that meeting.

Uh uh. The only way the FP could allow that is to give the police officers equal space in a column of their own.

Any bets on that happening?

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