Toronto Police: Unaccountable, uncaring, unbelievable

The Star doesn’t always get it right, but this time it’s taken a centring pass in the slot and buried it in the top corner.

When the provincial Special Investigations Unit threw in the towel and said it couldn’t identify the brutal, cowardly slimeball in a uniform who broke Dorian Barton’s arm at the G20 last summer, the CBC story prompted a somewhat sarcastic response from the progressive blogosphere, including this.

Most of the arguments about police brutality, the Blue Wall, the culture of silence, the contempt for civilians and civil authority, the Good Germans analogy, and the rank hypocrisy of cop complaints about witnesses who don’t come forward have already been made, usually by wiser observers than me. So there’s not much to be gained by rehashing them. I’ll provide links at the bottom if anyone’s feeling nostalgic.

But the earnest editorialists at the Star, god love ’em, are willing to have another go. In so many words, they’re saying the cops who can’t identify the vicious pig in question are full of shit. The asshole’s face is reasonably clear from the picture. The technology’s there to blow up and enhance the resolution on that and on his badge number. And it’s not as if his asshole buddies can’t remember who they were on duty with or check the records and find out who was assigned to do what at the time of the assault. And yet we’re supposed to believe that 11 Toronto Police officers (whom we’re about to favour with a big fat raise, by the way) have no idea who the fuck he is.

The money quote:

If the Toronto Police Service had any desire to find out what happened in this case, Chief Bill Blair could call the officers involved into his office and simply ask them what happened. If that’s too difficult, the force could compare the photo of the “subject officer” to its own photos of staff members — and figure out his identity itself.

The silence surrounding this case makes a mockery of the appeals for information that police routinely issue to the public. Police regularly send out photos of suspects and ask civilians for help identifying them. They call on the public’s sense of civic responsibility and simple justice, and ask them to do the right thing. In the Barton case, police are showing they believe that basic expectation of citizenship does not apply to them.

I’ve gone on and on about citizenship and civic responsibility, so I really can’t take issue with any of this. Simple, straightforward, and clearly argued.

A police culture that was serious about repairing its relationship with the citizens of Toronto wouldn’t hide behind process or pull shit like this. A police culture that cared about its credibility wouldn’t clam up and go silent to protect the assholes in its midst. Individual police officers who cared about their professional integrity wouldn’t hide behind the Blue Wall. As one commenter on the Star piece puts it:

The next time ANY police officer in Ontario testifies their testimony should be rejected on the grounds that the word of a police officer is worth NOTHING.

We’re well beyond a few bad apples here. What’s clear by now is that there’s systemic rot, from the top down and from the bottom up.

None of this is new, of course. But it ought to put the lie, once and for all, to any lingering illusions about whom the cops are there to protect and serve, and it ain’t us. They don’t give a fuck about us. They’re here to kick the crap out of us, laugh at us, look the other way, and take our money.

Update: h/t Fern Hill. Great minds, etc.

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