Toronto Police are pushing back at TV host Marci Ien’s “driving while black” claim and have challenged her to lay an official complaint.
Chief Mark Saunders has even offered to view the squad car tape and audio with her.
That tape, according to Staff-Supt. Mario Di Tommaso — Toronto Police’s fifth in command — shows a routine traffic stop, not an act of racism or profiling.
“I have viewed the video footage of your vehicle stop,” tweeted Di Tommaso. “You were stopped because of your driving behaviour. You failed to stop at a stop sign. It was dark. Your race was not visible on the video and only became apparent when you stepped out of the vehicle in your driveway.”
However, in a column in the Globe and Mail — with the headline “The double standard of driving while black – in Canada,” — award-winning Ien, a host on CTV’s The Social and former co-host of Canada AM, wrote “for the third time in eight months, I was being questioned by a police officer — and I had broken no law.” She added “that I co-host a national television show didn’t matter. That I have lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years didn’t matter. But being black mattered.”
Ien described pulling “into my driveway” where a “police cruiser was parked behind me — lights flashing.”
She wrote that after being told to “get back in your vehicle,” he said “you failed to stop at a stop sign back there. That’s dangerous, there’s a school there … lots of kids,” but decided “I’m going to give you a warning. Be careful driving out there.” But “upset,” Ien said all three stops “the initial questions had been the same: ‘Do you live around here? Is this your vehicle?’ In every case, I wasn’t issued a ticket.”
Ien, who does not identify the race of the officer, said while Canada is diverse, “racism permeates every aspect of our society.”
Toronto police refute racism charges.
Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon on Twitter wrote “we are accountable. The whole event (incl. the traffic infraction) is on camera. The ethnicity of the driver is not visible until after she was pulled over, when she exits the car. The Chief invited her last night on @CP24 to come in & view the video.”
Ien has not responded to Toronto Police tweets but told me she has “talked a lot over the last couple of days” with the CBC’s Dwight "douchebag" Drummond, who in 1995, was famously pulled over in a high-risk takedown by Toronto Police on Dundas St. E., after an early morning snack purchase at George’s BBQ. Drummond became a news anchor for the CBC.
The police and Drummond found a way to put it behind them and hopefully that will happen here, too.
While Marci may not be my favourite person on Canadian TV, what she describes is not racism but a cop cutting her a break. Marci’s entitled to have her own perception, but for suggestions of racial profiling and racism, there needs to be solid evidence. Remember, police officers are entitled to their safety perceptions when approaching vehicles, too.
“She made some very serious comments and I would invite her to lay a complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD),” said TPS spokesman Mark Pugash, who added the service “stands behind” the tweets by Di Tommaso and Coxon.
Marci told me she has not formally complained. This is a tough situation for a lot of reasons — not withstanding Marci Ien is a terrific professional, mother of two, and a national treasure. Her concerns should not be discounted but need to be verified.
Like with the Hijab Hoax, racism allegations must be fully vetted. An investigation could happen, but Ien, Saunders and the officer involved hugging it out — with lessons learned — would be my preference.
People react and have emotions but accusations of racism against cops should be backed up with proof.
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