City’s first black councillor, Matthew Green, says carding in Hamilton isn’t over.Hamilton’s first black city councillor, Matthew Green, has filed a complaint against the city’s police after he was arbitrarily stopped by an officer and grilled with questions.
In what Green describes as an “increasingly confrontational” and “hostile” interaction, the councillor said he was waiting for the bus when the officer randomly pulled up and started firing questions from the open window of his cruiser.
“It was humiliating. At first I had to ask myself ‘Is this guy serious?’ ” he said. “Instantly it sunk in and I realized, here you’re not a city councillor, you’re not anything, you’re just who you are and how you look.”
The councillor, who has been a vocal critic of carding in the city, said he’d left a constituent’s house moments earlier and crossed the street to wait for the bus home.
As he huddled behind a bridge out of the freezing wind and started scrolling through his email, the officer and his partner drove up.
Green said he has made an effort to get to know the city’s front-line officers and expected the cop to be stopping by to say hello, but that wasn’t the case.
“I was just there in business casual clothes checking my smartphone and he was basically making me justify my existence in my own community,” he said.
Green said he remained calm throughout the interaction and even tried to give the officer a way out as traffic piled up six cars deep behind him.
“I kept looking to his partner hoping he would move the conversation along. His partner said ‘Just tell him he’s holding up traffic,’” said Green, adding that when he did the officer responded ‘I’m OK here.’
Eventually the cop asked the councillor who he was. Green said when he told the officer his name he noticed a change in his tone and demeanor.
“He started asking me if I was OK in a very bizarre way,” he said. “It was like he was trying to pivot somewhere else.”
After the experience, Green tweeted “For those of you who think police carding is over. I was just arbitrarily stopped/questioned by @HamiltonPolice as a City Clr in my own city,” from his official Twitter account.
The tweet unleashed a barrage of online activity with people both sympathetic and critical of what he went through.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying as a member of the Police Services Board it would “not be proper” for him to comment while the incident was being investigated.
“My position on carding in general is well-known: it is indiscriminate, targeted, street checks, without the suspicion of a crime,” he wrote. “As far as I’m concerned this must not be practiced and it is proper that it be banned.”
In an email to the Star, a spokesperson for the Hamilton Police service also declined to comment on the incident beyond saying they “encourage people to use the OIPRD complaint process so that there can be an investigation” when someone has a complaint about a member of the service.
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is responsible for all public complaints about Ontario police conduct, policies and services.
The councillor said he had been stopped and questioned before, but never as an elected official.
“When police continually talk about this practice of carding they always bring up this example of 3 a.m. in a dark alley somewhere, but this was 3 p.m. in broad daylight on a busy street,” he said.
Hamilton police have previously stated that they don’t participate in carding because their checks are not random.
Despite a recent drastic drop in street checks from thousands in previous years to just 30 last year acting police Chief Ken Wetherill told the Hamilton Spectator that senior officers had not directed cops to cut down on the number of checks.
Instead, he said the drop could be linked to police getting to know the people in their area requiring fewer checks.
Due to recently released provincial carding regulations Hamilton Police have until July 1 to develop new street check policies. All officers must be trained in accordance with those changes by the end of the year.
Despite his experience, Green said he’s not anti-police, just anti-oppression.
“What was happening in that space was the officer exerting his power and control for no reason,” he said. “If I was a younger man or I wasn’t educated or who knows what I’m not sure I would have been able to deal with it in the same way and then who knows what happens?”
with files from Torstar news service
Source: The Toronto Star