THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Toronto Star - Sept. 26, 2006 - By San Grewal
Charges of racism dog Peel police
Last week was a troubling one for Peel Region police.
Incidents that came to light involving alleged misconduct by officers underscore deeper questions about the force and its relations with the rapidly changing community it serves.
* An alleged assault of two youths caught videotaping 20 off-duty officers during a rowdy party in August
* A Calgary man who claims Peel officers stopped him and wiped his videotape after he had filmed them driving recklessly.
* Two men — one a paraplegic who was yanked from his wheelchair — who say they were arrested while trying to help a stabbing victim.
In the third incident, the two men were found not guilty of causing a disturbance yesterday.
The stabbing victim and the two men arrested were black. All three officers involved were white.
"What we have here is a minor charge (causing a disturbance) that is constantly put forth by Peel police against citizens that were genuinely trying to help," said Jason Bogle, the lawyer for the co-accused.
"It's disturbing. The black community as a whole has a very poor view of the Peel police. Numerous people have told me it is considered the most racist force in the GTA. They need to take stock of who they are hiring."
According to Emil Kolb, chair of the Peel Police Services Board, only about 10 per cent of the 2,350 uniformed and civilian staff in 2005 — and none of the 43 senior uniformed positions — represented racial minorities.
The figures stand in stark contrast to the region's demographics. According to the 2001 census, 40 per cent of Peel's residents were from ethnic minorities, primarily South Asian, black and Chinese. With rapid growth, projections put the figure at closer to 50 per cent today.
Minority officers the Toronto Star spoke to were extremely wary of being identified publicly, but told of witnessing instances of discrimination inside the force. One of the most common complaints was that visible minority officers are overlooked for promotions.
Kolb denied the claims, but when asked how to explain the absence of any visible minority officers among the senior ranks, he replied, "I'd like to check that number out." He called back later and said, "We don't have anybody in the 43 (senior uniformed positions) that are multiculturals, just to confirm."
Lawyer Selwyn Pieters said he believes many black and South Asian officers, frustrated by their lack of opportunities in Peel, have already left the force for other police services.
"I'm aware that there's numerous problems stemming from discrimination, and systemic racism against blacks and South Asians in the Peel police force and in the community," claims Pieters, who is representing several clients in cases against Peel police that he says are being reviewed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
"There are (at least) 11 outstanding complaints by Peel officers who are black against the force. There are complaints of planting drugs on black suspects, using gratuitous violence against blacks and South Asians and wanton use of racist language."
Peel police Chief Mike Metcalf was unavailable for comment, but Supt. Steve Asanin responded to the accusations in the human rights complaints by saying: "They're allegations — and that's all they are right now."
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