My personal encounters with the police as well as my observations of policing behaviours during APEC, the G20 Summit as well as during the 2010 Olympics, Gustafson Lake as well as Burnaby Mountain and the on-going situation on Wet’suwet’en territories, lead me to pose serious questions about whether the public good is being properly “served” and “protected” by law enforcement – as currently constituted – in this province in particular but this also of course extends to the country as a whole.
History teaches us that unless the weakest and most vulnerable members are safe and secure in our society, then, at the end of the day, no citizen is.
I would like to emphasize that my personal interactions with the police have not been uniformly negative; far from it. Despite certain unpleasant early experiences, I therefore possess no particular animus towards law enforcement. I do not view individual police officers through a moral lens, as either “good” or “bad,” but, rather, regard them just as just ordinary persons, like you and I, simply doing their jobs according to their training and to the best of their ability.
However, at the same time, as part of this training – as with the armed forces (see Gwynne Dyer’s excellent 1985 documentary Anyone’s Son Will Do) – police officers are socialized into roles that often entail maintaining rather than dismantling myriad systems of oppression and structural violence.
Our emphasis ought to be precisely on these roles individuals are required to play. This is an important point because it casts doubt on the idea that making law enforcement more ‘diverse’ is – on its own – to meaningfully reform policing.
The idea is that if police forces more closely resemble the communities they police, such forces will do so in a fairer and more just manner than if they did not.
I believe that such an assumption while, on the face of it reasonable and intuitive, would not necessarily stand up to the scrutiny of critical judgment in light of empirical evidence.
Individual racialized persons can, themselves, also uphold norms and structures of white supremacy, just as – we must never forget – individual white people can work energetically and constructively towards its dismantling. The issue is not just black and white.