Local lessons learned from Ferguson tragedy

Many of us are familiar with the controversial case based out of Ferguson Missouri regarding the shooting and death of Michael Brown. On November 24, 2014 Officer Darren Wilson, the responding officer on August 9, 2014, was not indicted of the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, by the decision of a grand jury.

This court decision has created a stunning and passionate response from minority communities not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but across the nation. There have also been further repercussions within the judicial and police systems.

Shortly after the verdict was announced to the public, Brown’s parents were quoted in saying, “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”

I spoke with a representative of Trent University’s own Community and Race Relations Committee regarding this issue. “This is one such case in a greater issue of police brutality, specifically against people of colour,” said Cáitlín Currie of the CRRC, when asked to voice her initial thoughts on the matter.

Currie went on to say, “It was a complete injustice, and a tragedy. The profile of ‘young black man’ is a term that is constantly being mobilized to police young black men, in black communities.”

When asked how the police could have better reacted to this situation by way of not immediately resorting to lethal force Currie said, “If any force was needed, let alone the extreme of killing [Michael Brown], and shooting at him with a total of twelve shots, what is this young black man doing that requires the police to respond in any way?”

Currie further expressed her opinion and made it clear that this was an injustice that happens far too often, relating this incident to that of Trayvon Martin’s death in February 2012, as well as the shooting of Sammy Yatim whom was shot and killed on the TTC in Toronto mid 2014.

Photo of a protest in Ferguson by Wikipedia user Loavesofbread, courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of a protest in Ferguson by Wikipedia user Loavesofbread, courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

To get a discordant point of view, Peter Williams, the Community Development Coordinator for the Peterborough Police, was interviewed on the subject, to which he stated, “We don’t generally comment on other services’ performance, however, I can say that we provide all the training we can to ensure the safety for all of those involved.”

Williams also provided some documentation that was distributed at a meeting of the international association of Chiefs of Police, which took place in the US shortly after the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson. The documents outlined revised practices on, “how to better respond to community and engage with community.”

When asked if he believed the protests in the United States and backlash that has surfaced due to this issue may leak across the border, Williams responded with, “Although I don’t have enough of an understanding of the social climate in Ferguson or the way in which they conduct themselves in creating policy changes, I do know that if we don’t acknowledge and consider the patriarchal, homophobic, misogynistic history that we have, we can’t really create change and engage community in an authentic way.”

Although there aren’t any immediate repercussions from this event here in Canada as of yet, one would hope that, as a recognized global peacekeeping nation, with strong grass root practices put in place such as the inception of the Multiculturalism act in 1971, and bilingualism, Canada can take the tragedy in Ferguson and learn from it.

Williams points out that the Peterborough Police have a good reputation when it comes to community policing, and do collaborate with a number of different external resources such as working with mental health officials. They also participate in efforts to help end homelessness, as well as drug strategy programs.

When it comes to the alleged discrimination of minority groups in the community by police, Williams puts it very eloquently when he states, “the public are the police and the police are the public,” we can all rally together and echo Michael’s parents in saying that we hope that this incident is not in vain, but also does not bring unnecessary harm to anyone else. We must all work together, and we cannot let the actions of a few dictate the perception of the masses.

About Jordan Porter 50 Articles
Jordan Porter is a third year political studies student at Trent, and minoring in philosophy. This is Jordan's third year writing for Arthur, and is now a senior writer while also serving on Arthur's Board of Directors.