A Cop’s Perspective: Police Anti-Gang Initiative Targets Innocent, By William Perry
Motorcyclists have every right to fear the RCMP. The incidents, and there were many this summer, involved motorcycle only “safety” stops, BEU and uniformed gang task force members, many of who were viewed as aggressive. According to many, the police officers were threatening and disrespectful, while victims were explaining they did nothing wrong.
I think it is time for motorcyclists to band together and seek an injunction against BC police services and the province to stop the tactic of harassing the innocent. By way of a court-issued restraining order prohibiting police from participating in practices that violate a citizen’s rights under the Charter. It is based on the legal theory that anti- gang initiatives constitutes a public nuisance that prevents non-gang members from enjoying peaceful assembly in their communities.
Clearly, the Province of BC and law enforcement’s approach on organized crime has gone astray, and its tactics of fear, which conclude gang repression, has leads to increased gang cohesion, and a police- community acting in desperation. Additionally, while anti-gang initiatives are intended to diminish criminal activity, the government and police are exaggerating their effects. Simply put - they miss the mark.
Experts including criminologists and law enforcement take on a more systemic approach to problematizing the gang. The gang has emerged as a response to social, economic, and political repression experienced by low-income people of ethnicity. Between the provincial government and police, they have created a site of violence and dis-identification for particular populations, where the gang constitutes a community through which youth can collectively furnish identity and social needs. For these reasons the current tactics are severely limited in their capability to bring about lasting social change since they don’t challenge the social arrangement from which gangs emerge as logical ends.
The suppression model has been criticized since its creation. In communities where suppression is used, alternatives and diversion programs for at-risk youth diminish, and that the labour market is not sufficiently able to absorb under-educated adults who were involved in gangs during their youth. It also understood that while suppression may be the tool of choice, it’s effectiveness has had little effect on gang activity, and the zero-tolerance policy used to condemn, not rehabilitate, has only put more youth at-risk.
The harassment of innocent citizens possesses a high cost. Anti-gang measures constitute increased policing and therefore, divert resources that could be used for youth social programs. The moment came to reassess government and police initiates when school programs are being underfunded, and more and more children were funneling into gang culture as a result. To date, the anti-gang measures have cost BC taxpayers multi-millions, while several elementary schools have simultaneously shut down.
The fact is, the Government of BC and police don’t know who the criminals are, which is evident in the numerous incidents which includes the violation of civil liberties due to the broad focus of the anti-gang measures. The measures are unconstitutionally vague, violating due process and arbitrarily restricted personal liberties.
The vagueness of anti-gang measures and gang identification has given way to the current system of policing that uses profiling to classify and criminalize civilians, even if innocent. Police are accused of using stereotypes that are perpetuated through the media to target potential gang members. Riding a motorcycle, wearing biker clothing, displaying motorcycle club patches or colours, sporting tattoos, and other tropes, according to police and the BC government, constitute reasonable evidence for police to harass and register motorcyclists as active members under the gang unit sector of the BC police services.
I would think that it would be enough to go after the “KNOWN” criminals, rather than generally assume a demographic association, a connection with one another. Last I looked at the Charter, it does not permit harassment of any kind. Nor does the Criminal Code of Canada identify criminals for wearing certain clothes, making certain hand gestures, or riding motorcycles by any manufacturer. Some prohibited activities are already illegal. If the Charter and Criminal Code are to be rewritten, maybe we should add the Government and police violations to civil liberties, who randomly conduct activities that are normally illegal for law-abiding folk, who would be charged with a criminal act, and likely be handed a jail sentence. “