On a Balance of Probabilities, You’re a Racist. Again.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal already revealed that it considers Ontario police officers guilty of racism unless proven innocent. Constable Shaw was castigated by the Tribunal for 1) being white, 2) being physically well-built, 3) doing his job, and 4) possessing unconscious, unapproved thoughts.

A second case has now been decided by the OHRT with much the same verdict. The decision is here. Sharon Abbott, who is black, was delivering newspapers in an affluent Toronto neighbourhood, and, according to the Star (accompanied by a completely unbiased photo of Abbott crying):

She was followed by a Toronto police sergeant who acted aggressively toward her, pinned her to a police car, handcuffed her and held her for 45 minutes before issuing seven tickets and releasing her.

Well, let’s examine the facts of the case from the OHRT’s own decision. Note that these are the facts from the officer’s testimony, which I would consider less motivated to lie than a civilian looking for a fat wad of cash and some humiliation for a cop who dared to question her:

1) The time was 3:30 AM, at which residential crime is at its peak.
2) Abbott was parked in a no-parking zone with her 4-ways on.
3) The mandatory licence-plate light on Abbott’s car was not working.
4) Abbott got into her car, did not put on her seatbelt, and proceeded to turn left with no signal. She was not wearing her glasses as mandated on her licence.
5) Ruffino pulled up alongside Abbott’s car and rolled down the window to talk with her. Abbott took off, nearly hitting the patrol car.
6) Abbott proceeded for a distance, then pulled onto the sidewalk while holding the driver’s side door open.
7) After Abbott delivered a few more papers and returned to her car, Ruffino rolled down his window and asked Abbott to approach the patrol car so he could speak with her. She refused.
8) Ruffino got out of the car and approached Abbott, and asked for her drivers’ licence and registration three times. Failing to get a response, he asked her name three times and still received no answer. Abbott was busy dialing numbers into her cell phone.
9) Ruffino cautioned Abbott that he could arrest her if she failed to identify herself. Still no response from Abbott.
10) Ruffino proceeded to arrest Abbott, who resisted. A struggle ensued.
11) After Ruffino had subdued and handcuffed Abbott, he neglected to advise her of her right to counsel, for which he was later reprimanded.
12) Abbott complained of a medical condition. Ruffino offered to call an ambulance, which Abbott declined.
13) Ruffino offered to remove the handcuffs while he wrote several tickets. Abbott responded by saying she hadn’t done anything wrong. Ruffino did not remove the handcuffs and did not ask again.
14) After the incident, Abbott lodged a complaint. The police investigated, and only found that Ruffino had erred in not advising her of her right to counsel.

So why is this before a Human Rights Tribunal? Abbott alleges that the treatment was because of her “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, and sex.” Quite the grab bag of victim groups, all of which I’m sure Ruffino catalogued as he devised his malicious plan to rough up a completely innocent person for kicks.

As also used in the Shaw decision, the OHRT quoted from Radek vs Henderson Development in laying down the scope of racial discrimination that, when combined by the burden of proof (balance of probabilities), is virtually unlimited:

a) The prohibited ground or grounds of discrimination need not be the sole or the major factor leading to the discriminatory conduct; it is sufficient if they are a factor;
b) There is no need to establish an intention or motivation to discriminate; the focus of the enquiry is on the effect of the respondent’s actions on the complainant;
c) The prohibited ground or grounds need not be the cause of the respondent’s discriminatory conduct; it is sufficient if they are a factor or operative element;
d) There need be no direct evidence of discrimination; discrimination will more often be proven by circumstantial evidence and inference; and
e) Racial stereotyping will usually be the result of subtle unconscious beliefs, biases and prejudices.

The Tribunal immediately admits that the case is based on circumstantial evidence, but let’s not have that get in the way of the shakedown. Next, the police officer’s testimony is assumed to be inferior to Abbott’s, on the basis that she was more familiar with the area – a newspaper delivery person apparently knows the area better than a police officer who pounds the beat. The Tribunal did not make the assumption that, during an altercation, a police officer is recruited, trained, and experienced in remaining calm and composed under stressful situations; the complainant, meanwhile, admitted that she feared she was being raped, and therefore heightened emotions may interfere with the ability produce reliable testimony for an event occurring under that kind of stress.

The Tribunal found, in the end, that Ruffino had been too hasty in arresting Abbott. If this finding was made by a police review board or dedicated police complaint commission, I would be less skeptical. However, since it is made by a Human Rights body that has every motivation to justify their own existence, I find this conclusion completely suspect.

The leap of logic then needs to be bridged between the hasty arrest and the applicant’s race (and the other grab-bag of victim designations). The Tribunal took great pains in making it clear that Ruffino did not deliberately discriminate. But here’s the kicker:

I find that Sergeant Ruffino’s actions in this regard are consistent with a manifestation of racism whereby a White person in a position of authority has an expectation of docility and compliance from a racialized person, and imposes harsh consequences if that docility and compliance is not provided

I would think that a police officer, white or black, can rightly expect docility and compliance from anyone when required. They should have every right to mete out harsh consequences if that compliance is not provided. Resisting officers of the peace is dangerous to everyone, and a government body would be irresponsible to say the least if it alleges that “docility and compliance” to a peace officers’ reasonable demands should not be a duty of every citizen.

The Tribunal is projecting its opinions of the “manifestations of racism” onto the actions of police officers, resulting in fines and professional humiliation. Those of us whose brains have not turned into multicultural mush can see as plain as day that a Tribunal, endowed with the force of the state and claiming to be the arbiter of our conscious and unconscious thoughts, is no better than an Iranian theocracy.

Cross-posted at SF


One Response to On a Balance of Probabilities, You’re a Racist. Again.

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