Hamilton’s first black city councillor, and an open critic of police street checks, says he’s been carded.
Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green says he was arbitrarily stopped and questioned Tuesday afternoon as he was waiting for a bus on Stinson and Victoria.
Green tweeted “for those who think police carding is over. I was just arbitrarily stopped/questioned by Hamilton Police as a Councillor in my own city.”
Green has submitted a formal complaint to the Hamilton Police Service.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, Green says he was waiting for the bus to go home when two police cruisers stopped and one officer proceeded to engage in an arbitrary stop and questioning.
“The truth is, this experience has been happening thousands of times throughout Ontario-it criminalizes innocent people, dehumanizing them and making them question their own place in their community. Although this is not the first time this has happened to me, this is the first time it has happened since being elected in 2014,” says Green.
Green added, “When residents call me to ask my advice on incidents revolving around racism or policing, I give them the same advice: officially file a complaint because not doing so allows people to continue to believe or suggest it doesn’t happen.”
Green hosted a town-hall meeting last September to discuss the issue of street checks.
A brief email from Hamilton Police Corporate Communicator Catherine Martin says “We think it is important for the community to know that if and when they have a concern or a complaint about a member of our Service or our service delivery that we encourage people to use the OIPRD (Office Of Independent Police Review Director) complaint process so that there can be an investigation. It is also important to know that we cannot and will not provide any comment in order to ensure the integrity of that process.”
Mayor Fred Eisenberger has also released a statement:
As this is a formal complaint, and as I am both mayor and a member of the Police Services Board, it would not be proper to comment while the matter is being investigated. My position on carding in general is well-known: it is indiscriminate, targeted, street checks, without the suspicion of a crime. As far as I’m concerned this must not be practiced and it is proper that it be banned. In October 2015, the Provincial government proposed draft regulations that have now been passed. As of January 2017, the new rules say police officers cannot randomly or arbitrarily stop and question citizens. Officers must also inform a citizen that a stop is voluntary and they have the right to walk away. They will also be required to provide a reason for the stop, documentation about it afterwards, and must inform citizens how to file a complaint or access information obtained during the stop.
At the last Hamilton Police Services Board meeting, Acting Chief Ken Weatherill said there’d been a dramatic drop in the number of street checks, from 9-thousand since 2010 to 30 last year.
He added it was not due to a directive from senior officers.
Matthew Green’s official letter of complaint.
April 27, 2016
Hamilton Police Service
155 King William St
Box 1060, LCD1 Hamilton, ON
RE: Hamilton Police Service Complaint Arbitrary Stop April 26, 2016
To whom it may concern:
On Tuesday April the 26th at approximately 3:15 pm I arrived at the bus stop located on the Eastbound/South side of Stinson St and Victoria Ave. waiting for the 5 Delaware bus to take me to my home a few blocks away.
Having underestimated the temperature outside I was dressed in dark blue sports blazer, light blue dress shirt and casual pants and decided to cross the street to stand beside the bridge adjacent to the Central Memorial Recreation centre in order to shield myself from the frigid wind and wait for the Eastbound 5 Delaware bus.
While reading emails on my phone, two Hamilton police squad cars exited the parking lot from Central Memorial School, turning left onto Stinson in the eastbound/north side of the street. The first officer driving squad car 725-1 stopped directly in front of me with his window rolled down.
The following conversation contained in this complaint is part of but not limited to the extent of the stop which felt like roughly 7 or 8 minutes in duration.
Having a relatively familiar relationship with Division 1 frontline officers my first thought was that he was going to say hello so to my surprise he began to arbitrarily question me in an intimidating tone asking, “what are you doing there?”
To which I replied, “checking my phone”.
He responded, “under a bridge?”
I replied, “out of the wind waiting for the bus”.
His line of questioning and tone became more agitated as cars began to line up behind him and he held up traffic.
He further asked, “where I was going?”
Recognizing the nature of his questioning and feeling harassed I believe I replied, “why does that matter?”
He responded, “the bus won’t be able to see you” thinking that I was waiting for the westbound bus when in fact I was waiting for the eastbound bus which I would have easily seen turning down the street off of Wellington St. South.
When I looked to his partner who was waiting behind him in a separate squad car, his partner said, “tell him he’s holding up traffic”. Which I relayed to the officer questioning me while the roughly 5 or so cars were left waiting.
The officer said, “they can wait”.
I asked him if he’d rather pull over to have this conversation to which he replied “no I’m good here”
He then asked me “are you from this City?”
To which I replied that “Yes I’m very much from this City and you?” He then asked me my name in an annoyed tone to which I replied “Matthew Green and what’s your name?
To which he replied “Officer REDACTED (spelling unknown) I believe it was at that time that he followed up with, “are you the City Councillor?” To which I did not answer and looked to his partner hoping the interaction would have ended and he would have continued along his way.
Perhaps recognizing that I was an elected official he proceeded to repeatedly ask me, “are you okay?”
To which I replied “are you okay?” I do not feel the interaction was caused by any particular concern for my wellbeing or safety. The conversation felt confrontational in nature and I was made to justify my existence in my own community. Nor do I believe it followed the proper Hamilton police protocols given the nature of the interaction.
This process of arbitrary stopping and questioning in public with cars lined up on the street waiting caused me embarrassment, frustration and anger. He repeatedly questioned my credibility, acting in an intimidating manner and continued to harass me even though it was clear I was not a suspect in any crime nor involved in criminal activity. I feel what he was doing was unlawful and unconstitutional.
This questioning was both arbitrary and agitating in nature and constitutes both harassment and intimidation as I was not under any investigation nor related to any criminal activity or events in the area.