Blotter

In The News: Police-Community Relations

TORONTO – A Toronto police officer recently apologized for suggesting that women could prevent sexual assault by not dressing “like sluts” during a campus safety information session at York University last month.  Toronto police spokesman, Mark Pugash, stated that the officer’s remarks were “diametrically opposed to the way in which [they] train [their] people, the way in which [they] train [their] investigators and the way in which [they] write about sexual assault.”  Although the officer has been disciplined, many -including  Mila Guidorizzi, part of York University’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line- believe that this cannot make up for the damage that may have been caused by the Toronto officer’s insinuation that women are to blame for sexual assault as it may decrease the likelihood that survivors of sexual assault will report their assaults or seek counseling.  Others, such as the vice-president of campaigns and advocacy for the York Federation of Students Darshika Selvasivam, believes the Toronto police’s procedures for handling sexual assault cases should be evaluated by a third party as current police training  “clearly isn’t sufficient enough because this officer clearly felt comfortable (making the comments) despite the training that he had received.”  Toronto police asserted that they have worked with a number of outside organizations to create an adequate training program for sexual assault investigators and maintains that the officer in question does not represent the force.

SAN JOSE – Facing increasing numbers of racial profiling and other bias allegations, the San Jose police department has broadened its definition of profiling to include “any biased behavior at any time during an encounter with the public.” Prior to the change, San Jose’s Police Duty Manual stated that an officer must not “initiate a contact solely” based on factors including race, color, nationality and gender,” however, it is difficult to prove biased policing has taken place under this definition as officers could argue the person in question was stopped for a valid reason such as a broken taillight of failing to signal.  While the new definition does not directly address this issue, the city’s independent police auditor believes the change is a “huge” move in the right direction, noting past attempts to get the previous police chief to address issues of biased policing.  It is hoped that the new definition with help rebuild the “strained” relationship between San Jose’s minority communities and the police.  This is just one change in a series of alterations to the department’s operation.  Last year, the new police chief stopped his officers from impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers who were picked up for minor traffic violations, a practice many believed to target undocumented Latino immigrants.

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