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Saturday, July 10, 2010

How do we hold them accountable?

I've been thinking for a few days about police officers and the obvious, glaring inadequacy of mechanisms supposedly designed to hold them accountable. We may or may not get a public inquiry in the wake of the way citizens were abused during the G20 weekend, but it's pretty clear that nothing's going to change and no one's going to be charged, suspended or otherwise disciplined.

The police board isn't going to do anything. The municipal, provincial and / or federal governments? The courts? Not gonna happen. At best, we might get some sententious declaration, a few months from now, that mistakes were made.

Even a well-resourced public inquiry with the power to compel testimony and make findings of fact - the Braidwood inquiry in British Columbia, for example - can't do much more than decide that subject officers don't have any credibility. At least in that case, the four RCMP officers who tasered Robert Dziekanski to death were held up for the public scorn they deserve.

What we saw during the G20, however, goes much deeper. We've all seen the videos, of aggressive and violent police attacking, abusing and shoving peaceful citizens. We've all heard the stories about outrageous and appalling violations of civil and human rights. What I'm forced to wonder is: where do they get the idea that it's OK to abuse the people they're sworn to serve and protect like this?

There's no shortage of examples, of course, but I'm struck by the particular egregiousness of this one. This York Region cop - a fairly senior one, if the three shoulder bars mean anything - starts pushing around a guy at least a head shorter than himself (1:40) and says "this ain't Canada" (3:57). Take away the badge and the uniform and he's pretty much indistinguishable from your everyday asshole on steroids - note the aggression, the bullying, the clear contempt for the people he's dealing with - but what's particularly noteworthy for me is his obvious knowledge that no one's going to call him to account for this. He knows he's untouchable.

Since we can't count on an institutional response, however, it falls to the broader activist community (that's right, activists - there's nothing wrong with activism, and the idea isn't going to be demonized or marginalized by the manufactured corporate narrative) to find our own ways of holding guys like this accountable. And in this case, I think that's accomplished by the video: it holds him up to the light so that we can see him for what he is.

Also, you've got to admire the cojones on this guy:

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