Police trained as if for warfare killing increasing number of persons who are mentally ill, Black, and Indigenous

By Pat Watson

Posted April 5, 2018

CBC’s The Current did a segment on the how police killings of people – in particular people with mental illness and Black and Indigenous people – have increased. The statistics were collected beginning in 2000. The Current audio includes a segment on how Hamilton Ontario police are doing a better job of not hastily shooting people in distress because of a special new program designed to better respond to persons in mental distress. Yet, just 2 days ago, according to another CBC report a 19-year-old who had called the police for help was shot and killed by police in his own neighbourhood. (That’s the second link.)
The concerning information in the Current audio is the explanation of how police train. They work from the premise that whoever they encounter is dangerous and hostile. And, according to this report, they are presented with computer-generated scenarios that create that kind of stressful, life-threatening situation to prepare them for their response to the public.
The question that no one seems to have asked in this Current report is regarding the actual perception police have of the world such that they are trained to see everyone as a dangerous threat to their life.
Furthermore, because certain segments of society have become accustomed to the police as a threat, they reflexively become hostile when police make themselves present.
So which is it? Is it the person in crisis who is a threat or do the police present as a threat to the person in crisis?
The police show up and are already trained to assume life-threatening danger. This model is so damaging. Actually, deadly. Police are being trained in such a way that they are ready to shoot first, and to do so within seconds of presenting themselves at the scene of an incident. The killing of Andrew Loku is a prime example. And, let’s not forget that a new officer in training accompanied the one who took Loku’s life.
The presence of men and women who are being trained for warfare against civilians actually inflame crises because of the way they go into a situation. This is an unholy mess.
How many more people are going to be shot and killed reflexively because of the way police are trained before the public reaches the tipping point of rejecting this type of “public safety” practice?
Here are the links:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/as-police-involved-deaths-climb-in-canada-mother-of-man-shot-by-police-says-little-has-changed-1.4605396

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-children-witness-shooting-1.4607433

http://www.cbc.ca/news/investigates/what-an-examination-of-every-canadian-police-involved-fatality-since-2000-tells-us-1.4602916

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Some suggestions for St. Nick’s naughty and nice lists

 

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By PAT WATSON

We do love receiving gifts at Christmastime, don’t we? The big feature at Christmas for almost everyone is the exchange of beautifully wrapped packages as expressions of our consideration for one another. But, there is another tradition that is frequently overlooked, yet should not be since it functions is as a motivator to ensure good and decent behavior throughout the rest of the year.

That’s right, not everyone is deserving of a reward at the end of the year. Saint Nicholas had quite the job until more recently deciding who should and should get the proverbial lump of coal. It used to be that he would spend the better part of the year compiling two lists: one for those who managed to maintain good habits and social responsibility – the nice list; the other with the names of those who did the opposite – the naughty list.

It is indeed a big task. So, to help old Saint Nick along, here are a few suggestions for the nice and the naughty lists.

On the nice list is African American Tarana Burke. Actually, Burke’s name would have to have been on this list going back a decade to when she first started the movement to support Black women and girls who faced sexual abuse, the #MeToo movement. It has brought the discussion of gendered abuse to the front and given rise to millions of conversations and hopefully real soul searching among men in particular who participate in this form of violence or among those who have witnessed it without stopping it.

Also on the nice list is Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole. Cole just received the 2017 PEN Canada award that recognizes “work that advances freedom of expression”. Cole remains a strong voice against social injustice especially as it affects the Black population. Lately he has been considering whether he will run for mayor of Toronto in next year’s election.

Federal Liberal Member of Parliament for Whitby, Celina Caesar-Chavannes is on the nice list for taking a stand on raising awareness of racism on Parliament Hill, as well as mental health. Earlier in the year, Caesar-Chavannes spoke publicly about her experience with depression, which would have to have been a strengthening moment for other Black women or anyone having a similar challenge. Speaking publicly on this matter is no easy task because of the stigma that often threatens to silence those who live with mental illness.

Caesar-Chavannes also wrote a Facebook post about the racism she has been confronted with in Ottawa despite being an elected politician. These small everyday acts of discrimination, micro-aggressions will not defeat her she says. In her Facebook post she wrote, “Glass ceilings do not get broken by sitting on the sidelines and watching. They break when you stand up.”

The Toronto Transit Commission receives a qualified place on the nice list because the new Line 1 subway extension has finally opened. Students who attend York University will now have an easier time of getting to classes.

Mayor John Tory’s name has found its way onto the naughty list because hizzoner refused to take the advice of advocates for homeless people on how to respond to the need for more shelter spaces. Tory’s idea of how best to respond to the need for more shelter spaces is to add more mats on the floors of already crowded locations. Shame.

Torstar and Postmedia are on the naughty list for making a trade deal that was immediately followed by shutting down some 40 community newspapers.

Toronto Police Service is on the naughty list for still carding Black people and people of colour while trying to make it appear that this dreadful initiative is no long in play.

Also on the naughty list, real estate dealer turned politician, Donald Trump for more reasons than there is space here to list.

A note of thanks and appreciation…Merry Christmas to Share readers everywhere. Thank you all for making the time to read the musings in this space. Here’s hoping that your Christmas sorrel drink has just the perfect amount of Jamaican ginger.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

Lent: embrace change for the better

Lent: embrace change for the better
Posted by Pat Watson Wednesday March 11 2015 in Opinion

By PAT WATSON

We are now halfway through this Lenten season. Every religion has a period of reflection and penance. For Christians it is Lent, a period that follows the story of Jesus Christ’s 40-day period of meditation by himself before facing his ultimate task, which was to offer himself as a human sacrifice to redeem the sins of mankind. If there would be one person who would give their life over out of love for all of humanity, then we as humans would be redeemed.

Lent is a time to approximate an imitation of Christ. Those who follow the faith are to reflect on their behaviour toward others, to search their souls over this 40-day period and to ask God to remove from them any harmful habits that stand in the way of them being better members within the family of man. By so doing, we honour that unique gift of redemption.

This period of reflection is at once individual and collective. For those who commune with others who share this faith, their gathering together at places of worship can be a way to strengthen each other as they pinpoint harmful behaviour and thinking and commit to allowing the Spirit to guide them toward an improved way of being.

How do we know what behaviour we need to change?
– See more at: http://sharenews.com/lent-embrace-change-for-the-better/#sthash.5L64LMNn.dpuf

The TTC, the mentally ill man and the police

The TTC, the mentally ill man and the police

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By PAT WATSON

The subway train had already been sitting for more than 10 minutes when this commuter got on. Almost immediately, there came these words of warning from another commuter already in the train: “Don’t go into the third car. Someone in there is causing a disruption and hitting people.”

 

A look toward the third car revealed no particular activity, except a man in a red jacket standing in the aisle, looking somewhat lost. Other people continued to board the detained subway train while over the loudspeaker system could be heard one of the standard announcements that there was a delay at this particular station because of a passenger disruption.

 

The TTC was having a mental health issue.

 

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/the-ttc-the-mentally-ill-man-and-the-police/#sthash.YeGSGryG.dpuf

Protests in Ferguson, Mo., a rising tide – Opinion Column

Protests in Ferguson, Mo., a rising tide
By PAT WATSON

Given past actions across the United States in bringing to justice White police officers or their proxies who shot and killed African-Americans, it should come as no surprise that officer Darren Wilson, 28, was not indicted for murder or manslaughter, but instead is now free of charges of the August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a mainly Black suburb. Brown was unarmed and reportedly had his hands held high in the universal sign for surrender when he was shot.

It should also come as no surprise that rioting and public protests followed.

There had been a months-long wait for the grand jury decision and each day of delay increased tension. Little wonder then, that news of the decision not to indict sparked violent reaction. Yet, despite protests, this kind of police related killing will continue.

Racial classification matters very much in the United States. That is why the two-term election of Barack Obama stands out as such a remarkable occurrence. Obama’s election and re-election has been and continues to be a flashpoint for racism in America.

The shooting of Brown and the many shootings of young Black men by police officers across the United States has to be a matter of concern for us here, as there is a similar pattern of tension between Black communities and the police. Only last week, we learned that despite new directions from the Toronto Police Service Board, officers are still carrying out street stops and harassment of young Black males in numbers that exceed the general population.

There are voices that say the police are just doing their job, but the parents of Michael Brown, the parents of Trayvon Martin, and the parents of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot and killed by police in Cleveland just days ago, would disagree.

In the heat of this argument following Brown’s killing, it is a moral offence that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani would use this tragedy to talk about the rate of violence and killing among Black people in the U.S. – so-called Black-on-Black crime. Giuliani, a political conservative, is not the first to raise this argument, but it is sickening that he would add his voice to this ridiculous assertion.

That he would make such an assertion without also pointing out that most Whites are killed by Whites, that most wives are killed by husbands, is one more indication of the kind of character assassination that passes for discourse on race relations in the U.S., and shows how much further that nation must go to heal the stain of racial misunderstanding that is doing so much damage there. In fact, in a still segregated America, most killings occur among people of the same ethnicity.

The United States is home to nations living apart. When people are strangers to each other, and when they follow stories that strip the other of their humanity then these are the results.

Americans need to stop repeating ogre tales about who they are and who other Americans are. There appears to be a lack of awareness of the greater presence of humanity among large segments of that society and that is really what is doing damage.
– See more at: http://sharenews.com/protests-in-ferguson-mo-a-rising-tide/#sthash.lt7jYjty.dpuf

Abuse of women is not a game – Opinion column

Here is my latest column in Share Newspaper (Sharenews.com)

Physical and Sexual Abuse of Women is Not a Game

By PAT WATSON

Another high-profile man has been outed for his abusive behaviour involving women. The insistence by a well-known, now former, CBC radio host that his habit of choking women he invites on dates and then punching them in the head is consensual has appalled many. This individual has reportedly hired a top-notch female lawyer to defend his case as he has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against his former employer.

This matter of female abuse is a very emotional issue, therefore after this particular case came to public attention, a wave of female voices rose up to share stories of being the targets of abuse.

At the same time, a two-minute video showing how men sexually harassed a woman walking the streets of New York City went viral. Some hailed the video. And, it was criticized by others because of the way it racialized the males who hassled the woman. The producer of the video is male and he has stated he edited the 10 hours of footage to make his point not about race, but about the daily abuse of women on the streets.

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/physical-and-sexual-abuse-of-women-is-not-a-game/#sthash.lHNSwvK5.dpuf

Some Who Fancy Themselves Tough Guys Don’t Die Young – E-book Excerpt

The following is another compelling excerpt from the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens

January 14, 2007

Some Who Fancy Themselves Tough Guys Don’t Die Young 

Guns have been in high schools for decades, another signal of the folly and recklessness along the way to adulthood and maturity. A stable home life ups the chances a teen will be better able to navigate those deceptively treacherous years. If not a stable home life, then a strong early foundation leaves a good chance to recover from the relatively risky teen years.

I remember José (not his real name), a rosy-cheeked boy of Spanish heritage who wore a puffy Afro and identified himself as Black. He went — for a while anyway — to my high school. José was growing up in a household of women – his mother and two older sisters – where he was the only male and had no male presence to emulate or to guide him. School gossip was that his father had died.

José was one of the guys who smoked substances that were not allowed in the smoking area just outside the school building. Later, his attendance at school became irregular. After that, he would visit the school although he was no longer a student there.

I remember the day José showed me his gun. Well, showed off was more like it. He handed me a small bag that was surprisingly heavy. When I saw what was inside, I immediately handed it back to him and asked what he was doing with such a thing.

I didn’t see José again for years, until we ran into each other by chance. The rosiness of his cheeks was all gone. The baby softness, which decades before seemed so incongruous with his tough man attitude, was also gone. Now he was muscular and wiry. Of below average height, he looked nevertheless like someone you wouldn’t want to test in a fight.

He said he was living in a nearby basement apartment and that he had recently returned from one of the States out west where he had served time for armed robbery. He said something about lawyers being some of the best people in the world, and especially sang the praises of his lawyer.  Apparently, he had been able to get José off with less jail time than might have been the case, given the charge.

José said he’d learned a lot in jail about how to be a better skilled criminal. What we are interested in we study. What we study we become good at. What we become good at we practice as a skill.

José would pop up in unexpected places at unexpected times over the years. The next time I saw him was about 15 years after his return from the West Coast jails. Then, he looked like a homeless person. When I said hello, he either didn’t recognize me or pretended not to. It was hard to tell. He said he didn’t know who I was. Mental illness was evident.

The last time I saw José was on a subway train. He looked much, much older than his years. His hair had turned mostly gray and his features had become hardened. Given the previous chance meeting years before, I wasn’t sure whether to say hello or not. I looked in his direction a few times, and as I prepared to get off the train he waved and said hello. He asked how I was. I said, “Fine.” I didn’t ask how he was.

Not every youth who wants to be the bad man is killed off before he reaches 25. Some, like José, live past their dangerous youth. Then they have the rest of their lives to contend with. José didn’t study academics or a trade; he studied crime. He had come from a fine family. That’s what the gossip was. But he didn’t look like a man who had come from a fine family.   He looked beaten and worn out by his life choices.

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens available at amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk