[Much Should be Learned from Events in Baltimore etc]
The question of police accountability is now front and centre in Baltimore, Maryland. In a demographically diverse set out communities such as Brampton and Mississauga, a much more transparent system of police oversight is an idea long past due.
The existing system of simply appointing individuals who have been elected to other bodies such as City Councils is an archaic though back to colonial times. Given the complexity of municipal government, police and public security deserve something much better than part time city and regional councilors.
That there are contentious issues such as profiling attracting the public’s attention; one would suspect that much more transparency is badly needed. I would not say that police are necessarily doing a bad job. That is certainly not the point here.
No doubt, in Baltimore, Maryland there are many fine men and women working as cops. Listening to on the street interviews form the populous, mistrust and skepticism certainly appear to have a part in large scale public demonstrations that turned into full scale rioting.
The annual budget for all things in the Region of Peel 2015 annual operating budget has just been approved by the Peel regional Council. This year’s budget totaled $2,000,000,000 (Two Billion) and increased by about 2% from the past year.
Therein is a situation that may be considered a conflict of interest. Peel Regional Police budget was submitted to Region of Peel Council and eventually approved and implemented. The police budget represents 40% of the total budget or about $800 million. And, therein is a huge potential conflict. On the one hand, we have a handpicked group of councilors creating a special budget for police services. That budget is then submitted to the overall Regional Council consisting of many of the same individuals.
The optics are very bad. It is more than a bit apparent that the council members seated on the appointed Police commission would “appear” to have a bias or preference to advocate for funding for their police services while sitting on Regional Council and acting as adjudicators for various other services all competing for tax payers’ funding. How long will it be until other equally important services such as waste management, long term care, transportation or housing being short changed by way of this current system?
The test to determine bias in government has long been the “ordinary man” test. That is: what would the ordinary (lay) person perceive given the facts? Many would conclude that a police service presents a budget to Peel Regional Council for approval while being actual participants in the police budget process.
Public scrutiny of policing ought to be much more transparent than the appointment process. As is painfully apparent in looking at the faces around the Regional Police Board room table, there are gigantic gaps in ethnic representation. Those missing voices create suspicions.
Like most other folks, I certainly hope that distrust in police never boils over as it did in Baltimore and suggest that the best tool available in a democracy is democratic process and publicly elected police and hospital boards.
Copyright Thunderbird Rising 2015
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