Written by: Stu Mills, CBC, on Aug 12, 2020
Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice (ICCJ) is ending all student internships with police forces and prisons next year.
In a statement released earlier this week, the ICCJ said the move is part of an effort to reform the department in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
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“Faculty at the ICCJ take these calls to action seriously,” according to the statement.
Typically, some 80 third-year year criminology students are given internships with Ottawa police, the RCMP, Correctional Service Canada and the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
Professor Jeffrey Monaghan said those institutions have done too little to acknowledge systemic racism and work to eliminate “anti-Black and anti-Indigenous sentiments, practices and policies.”
“They’ve given lip service to reform, and that reform hasn’t happened,” said Monaghan.
“I think we’re at a moment that we can reflect on that promise, and I think we can say that it’s been largely a failure,” he said, pointing out recent remarks from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and her initial denial of the existence of systemic racism in Canadian policing as a turning point.
“We’re saying that action has to be made. We can’t maintain these relationships until we see action and we’re waiting to see that action,” Monaghan said.
Placements began in 1973
The internships have been a part of Carleton’s criminology program since 1973. Placements with police and correctional institutions make up about five to eight per cent of all placements.
Monaghan said that will come to an end in 2021 as the department rethinks how to address systemic racism and colonialism.
“The status quo is no longer an acceptable position to stay in,” he said.
Monaghan acknowledged the potential positive role that young people, energized by the Black Lives Matter movement, might have in changing the culture of police agencies during their work placements, but he said it was unrealistic to continue to believe that meaningful change would come from within those institutions.
He also rejected the view that the academic department was abandoning a chance to build important ties with Ottawa police, now under the command of a man of colour who has promised reform.
“The door is still open. We’re still engaged in all kinds of different ways,” Monaghan said.
Carleton’s ICCJ will create a new curriculum with anti-racism and an acknowledgement of colonialism at its centre.
Two new $1,000 student bursaries for Black, Indigenous and other racialized students working in criminology will be available this year. Two more bursaries of the same amount are being earmarked for students working in social justice initiatives that address racism and colonialism in the criminal justice system.
“I can definitely see how ending the placements with those institutions could be a form of that protest”, said 4th-year student Chanel Hepworth. “On the other hand … front-line involvement in these sectors by university students could assist with reform.”
Though she completed placements last year with law firms, she doubted students working with police or correctional institutions would have much influence or success changing the institutional culture there. Hepworth said she supports the department’s decision.
Ottawa police did not respond in time for publication.
Who Remembers the death of Mr. Sammy Yatim? In the midst of a global pandemic and the most recent police brutality of Mr. George Floyd, it’s hard not to sit and think. Yatim, died of a similar extreme use of force by police officer, Mr. James Forcillo in July 2013. Yatim was a distressed 18-year-old in an empty Toronto streetcar, wielding a knife who was shot 9 times. Three years later, on July 2016, Forcillo was sentenced for attempted murder. This was the first time a Canadian police officer was convicted for brutal use of force, leading to death. Between 2013 and 2020, many abuse of police power had transpired, but there are some that are more sensational than others. The question is, how is our nation dealing with this issue?
Most recently, a Black man was killed by the abuse of police power in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. Floyd, a 46-year old, father of two children, the youngest is 6 years old, moved to Minnesota from Houston, Texas to better his life. Police Officer, Mr. Derek Chauvin executed a brutal arrest procedure, by kneeling in the neck of Floyd, leading to his death. As a past Correction Officer for Young Offenders, I had been trained on the use of force techniques, and to be aware of asphyxiation. When I watched the news clip of Officer Chauvin resting his knee on Floyd’s neck, that was the first thing that came to mind. With so much adrenaline going through Floyd’s body during the arrest, he was being deprived of oxygen. Asphyxiation is worse for anyone who suffers from other illnesses, including mental health. In this case, Floyd may have been under the influence (I’m no doctor). That said, why didn’t Officer Chauvin know this?
Here we go again. The question of police officers’ fatal use of force is up for discussion. What do we, as a nation, do about it? The Yatim family are most likely sitting in their living room, watching the news, and recalling the death of their son. Was a 6-year prison sentence enough to deter wrongful police conduct? As of January 17, 2020, Forcillo is out on parole, having served almost all of his sentence on house arrest with his loved ones. Is that fair for the Yatim’s family? Floyd’s children and most recently, a grandchild will be growing up the rest of their lives without a father and a grandfather. What will Officer Chauvin’s sentence be? Whatever it will be, it won’t be enough to wash out a system ridden with racial practices, and abuse of police power.
Justice Edward Then, the Toronto judge in Yatim’s case stated, “Officers should only be drawing and using their firearms when they are faced with an imminent, potentially mortal threat.” The judge asked, rhetorically, “…is police training overemphasizing use of force, fatal and otherwise, in situations where the average citizen, lacking the benefit of police training, would see that force is not called for?” When an average citizen looked to see Floyd’s lifeless body on the ground, and had to ask the Officers to check the pulse, we have to sit and think. If this were another race, would Officer Chauvin have acted with such brutality?
No sentence given by the Courts of Justice is enough for crimes against police officers who fatally abuse their power against citizens, whom they are called to serve and protect. My recommendations are these: (1) Drastic review of legislations and policies are needed in our societies, pertaining to the police use of power by a designated Taskforce. (2) The police training programs ought to be seriously re-evaluated in every state. (3) A police audit should be conducted on Police forces nation wide. (4) Criminologists should be given the go-ahead to conduct research on racial profiling within the Force. (5) An apology to the families should be personally done by the chief of police every time a loved one is taken by the hands of police officers, including paying their respects at funerals. (6) Finally, the state of Minnesota ought to recognize May 25 annually by a police officers’ march.
These recommendations are a few steps to be taken to make lasting change in our nations’ Justice systems. If not, we will continue to forget martyrs like Yatim and Floyd who had to die by the hands of a police officer’s brutal use of force, leading to their deaths. Let’s not allow it to happen again.