Toronto police dispute racism claims from co-host of The Social
Several high-profile members of the Toronto Police service have spoken out against claims of racial profiling put forth by local media personality Marci Ien.
Ien, who co-hosts CTV's The Social, recalled a recent encounter with police on Monday in a Globe and Mail editorial called "The double standard of driving while black – in Canada."
"For the third time in eight months, I was being questioned by a police officer – and I had broken no law," wrote Ien, who says she was stopped by a police officer after pulling into her own driveway on Feb. 18.
The officer reportedly told Ien that she was being puled over for rolling through a stop sign in front of a school near her home. Ien was let off with a warning, but says she was "shaken" by the officer's tone and line of questioning.
"Every time the initial questions had been the same," she said of this, and previous traffic stops in recent months. "'Do you live around here? Is this your vehicle?' In every case, I wasn't issued a ticket."
It happened again. I had to write. https://t.co/Sj1PjPFqrn— Marci Ien (@MarciIen) February 26, 2018
The broadcast journalist went on to suggest that this was evidence of racial profiling. "If you are black in Canada," she wrote, "you are subject to a different standard and, often, seemingly, different laws."
Ien's story sparked a series of heated debates online, prompting at least three police officers to address the allegations on Twitter this week.
"I have viewed the video footage of your vehicle stop. You were stopped because of your driving behaviour," tweeted Toronto police Staff Superintendent Mario Di Tommaso to Ien on Tuesday.
I have viewed the video footage of your vehicle stop. You were stopped because of your driving behaviour. You failed to stop at a stop sign. It was dark. Your race was not visible on the video and only became apparent when you stepped out of the vehicle in your drive way.— Mario Di Tommaso (@SSuptMarioTPS) February 28, 2018
Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon responded to the opinion piece yesterday on Twitter, writing that "The whole event (including the traffic infraction) is on camera."
"The ethnicity of the driver is not visible until after she was pulled over," wrote Coxon, "when she exits the car."
These incidents are an opportunity for discussion and learning by everyone involved. Our relationships with people = communities. Our work in listening and building/ensuring trust can never be over.— Shawna Coxon (@ShawnaCoxon) February 28, 2018
Police Chief Mark Saunders also reportedly invited Ien to review video footage from the incident with him during an interview on CP24.
Some in Toronto have been asking that Saunders release the video publicly, though there is no indication that this will happen.
On video she ran a stop sign giving the officer the grounds for a stop. She probably drives through that stop everyday just like the entitled people in my neighbourhood. Thats why shes getting stopped so much! Obey the LAW @marksaunderstps #ReleaseTheVideo— Canadian Tragedy (@CanadaInDecline) March 2, 2018
News of Ien's opinion piece, and responses to it from Toronto Police officials continues, to drive debate.
Some in Toronto say that the journalist seems to expect "special privileges" on account of her public platform.
Thank you. I don't understand her article. She broke a stop sign in a school zone. Didn't a little child just die because of a careless driver in the school zone? What does it matter who or where she lived? Does she want preferential treatment from the officer?— Hannah (@_couture_adore) February 26, 2018
There ARE racial injustices in this country against people of colour. Your experience ISN'T one of them. Don't dilute those injustices with this story. It's not fair to those who are really suffering from racism. Children are hit EVERY day in this country within school zones.— Wendell Waldron (@wendellwaldron) February 26, 2018
Many more are speaking out in support of Ien, pointing to larger, well-established problems with the treatment of black communities by law enforcement in Canada and the U.S.
"This is absolutely infuriating & heartbreaking," wrote Toronto-based lawyer Annamaria Enenajor. "Law-abiding people of colour are terrorized & humiliated on a daily basis by @TorontoPolice. Thank you @MarciIen for sharing your story."
Do you live here?— Scott Laurie (@ScottLaurie_CTV) February 26, 2018
Is this your car?
How are these questions for a traffic stop?
As if you couldn't possibly HAVE that car.
As if you couldn't possibly LIVE there.
"Never been stopped like this or treated like this by a police officer," wrote white CTV News anchor Graham Richardson on Twitter. "To those who say 'no big deal' you are not listening."
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