Black Lives Matter Toronto Debunked (with Stats, Empiricism, and Logic)

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Black Lives Matter has a Canadian offshoot in Toronto—a.k.a. BLMTO. And recently the group initiated a multi-day protest outside of Toronto Police headquarters, in light of the decision by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) not to press charges against the officer who shot and killed 45-year-old Andrew Loku, a black man. (The SIU is the civilian oversight agency responsible for investigating circumstances involving police that have resulted in a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault of a civilian in Ontario, Canada.) The protest eventually culminated in a march to Queen’s Park (where Ontario’s provincial government is housed), whereupon arrival Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, along with other members of her government, came outside to meet BLMTO leaders. During the outdoor rendezvous, the Premier was clear about wanting to schedule a meeting with the group’s leaders.

As can be seen by the official statement from the SIU, it is clear that the decision not to press charges against the officer was the right one. The circumstances of Loku’s death are often framed in terms of careless, unlawful use of lethal police force. I believe that those who frame the unfortunate event in these terms are succumbing to the hindsight bias and omitting or distorting crucial details, however. Many observers and commenters fail to describe the event in its proper context, which makes it easy to overlook the fact that police were called to assist two individuals who were being threatened by the hammer-wielding Loku, and, upon arriving, were in tight quarters—specifically, situated in a hallway with their backs facing a door leading to a stairwell. The officer that shot Loku was in these tight quarters when Loku suddenly started approaching with the hammer, and, despite the officer’s calls for him to stop, Loku defiantly continued closing in while even taunting the officer. BLMTO and its supporters should honestly ask themselves how they would have reacted in such circumstances, time pressured as they were—would they really have risked getting bashed in the head with a hammer, or would they have shot to kill? It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback when one has a distorted picture of the event and the luxury of distance. To be clear, Loku’s death was unfortunate. But an unfortunate outcome, in and of itself, is not necessarily tantamount to foul play. And yet, many have made the inference from unfortunate outcome to unlawful use of lethal force on the part of the officer in question—but it’s an inference that can only be made by ignoring or distorting the actual circumstances of the event, or by imposing a naïve, unrealistic standard of culpability on the officer (and officers in similar circumstances).

As a side note, one can’t help but wonder how many police shootings of civilians could have been prevented had individuals suffering from mental health problems been housed in institutions where they can be cared for—but that’s a whole other complicated issue that I won’t deal with here. After all, as the CBC reports, 40% of those shot and killed by police are people experiencing mental health crises. And to be fair to police forces across North America, there has been a growing movement to incorporate training and institute policies that would reduce the number of unfortunate shootings of those with mental health problems—and indeed Toronto Police are following suit on this pressing issue. Furthermore, and as will later become clearer when we discuss the cognitive biases of relevance, the media is only wont to report on and sensationalize cases like the Loku shooting. What is not reported on is the vast majority of interactions between police and individuals with mental health issues that get resolved peacefully and with care.

In view of the foregoing, however, what, precisely, are BLMTO’s demands, and, just as importantly, how reasonable are those very demands?

BLMTO have recently provided a list of specific demands. I will address them in seriatim.

Demand number 1: Release of the name(s) of the officer(s) who killed Andrew Loku.

The first demand is flat out negligent. There is a good reason why the SIU does not release the names of officers they investigate. To think that releasing the name of the officer in the Andrew Loku case would not have an adverse effect on their life and safety is to strain credulity. The anonymity provided by the SIU is designed to foreclose the possibility of ‘vigilante justice’ by lunatics who think that the only just outcome of investigations is reputational damage, physical harm, or, worse, death to the officer(s).

Demand number 2: Charges laid against the officers who killed Loku.

This demand is comical and screams of politicization, not justice. Mirroring the larger BLM movement in the United States, this BLMTO demand is tantamount to elevating the group as judge, jury, and executioner. As the high profile case of Michael Brown showed, BLM and its militant supporters felt they already had the correct verdict in advance of due process. And since the legal system issued the correct verdict—Officer Darren Wilson was acquitted of charges—the results were predictable (and similarly predictable was the Freddie Gray ‘protest’, also stoked by BLM rhetoric). Anyone with an inkling of how vitally important due process is to a civilized society ought to see through the mob authoritarianism of a segment of the BLM movement, if not also its core. (Protest in wake of the Ghomeshi trial verdict serves as another recent Canadian example of protesters who are openly hostile to due process and rule of law. For people like this, the only verdict that is acceptable is the one that they have decided on beforehand—the one that aligns with their self-serving ideology.)

(For current purposes, I will be skipping another, similar demand of BLMTO: Immediate release of the name(s) of the officer who killed Alex Wettlaufer, and charges to be laid accordingly.)

Demand number 3: Public release of any video footage from the apartment complex where Loku died.

This demand is unacceptable for the same reason why demand number 1 is unrealistic and negligent: Video identification of the officer who shot Loku would allow would-be vigilantes to take matters into their own hands and place said officer’s safety and well-being in jeopardy.

Demand number 4: Adoption of the African Canadian Legal Clinic’s demand for a coroner’s inquest into Loku’s death.

This demand sounds prima facie reasonable, except that the specification that the coroner be specifically the “African Canadian Legal Clinic” should, to any rational and realistic person, smack of a conflict of interest—or, at the very least, pose doubt about the impartiality of such a coroner (who probably is in some manner simpatico with the sentiments, if not the overt demands, of BLMTO). All such a coroner would need to do to create discord and sow serious doubt about the findings of the SIU decision would be to offer a conclusion that was at loggerheads with the official SIU one.

Demand number 5: Overhaul of the Special Investigations Unit in consultation with families of victims of police violence, black community and community at large.

This demand sounds similarly reasonable, prima facie, but is troubling nonetheless. It’s quite reasonable to wonder if such an “overhaul” would result in measures that would tend to view officers with greater suspicion—by default, as it were—than would otherwise be warranted by the details of specific cases. We should balk at the demand of BLMTO to influence the SIU the same way we would balk at any other interest group making a similar demand. A much more sensible request would be for a comprehensive review of the SIU—something that should probably be performed occasionally, anyway. A comprehensive review of the SIU, with a view to ensuring that its investigative procedures are just and as free from bias as humanly possible, is the best we can really ask for. Allowing interest groups to influence reviews of the SIU and other departments runs the risk of installing artificially-imposed ‘quotas’ and biased procedures. For instance, would it really be just to ensure that only a certain number of lethal police shooting cases involving non-whites resulted in the officer not being charged? In other words, should it be legislated that a certain proportion of officers who have shot and killed non-whites be charged, no matter the details of individual cases? This would, of course, be a ludicrous affront to justice. But with BLMTO, you never know.

The very idea that an overrepresentation of blacks among those killed by police does not necessarily entail that SIU investigations are biased is, for BLMTO and their supporters, unthinkable and ‘racist’. In reality, this is an elementary point that should be straightforward, but for many it is considered controversial if not scandalous.

Interestingly, one of the co-founders of BLMTO, Yusra Khogali, wrongly referred to the SIU as “Toronto police’s Special Investigations Unit” (my emphasis). As I already noted at the outset—and as the SIU’s own website makes eminently clear—“The SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency, independent of the police, that conducts criminal investigations into circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault” (emphasis mine). Indeed, the SIU was created in the wake of past protests alleging (correctly) that internal police investigations might be biased in favor of cops. And since we’re talking about Yusra Khogali, it is indicative of the times we live in when a leader of BLMTO is able to say some rather rotten and bizzare things yet have it discredit neither her nor the organization. Had, say, a white male said such things, mutatis mutandis, it is fairly safe to say that it would have come with high personal and professional costs to said white male, and the movement of which they were a part might never have recovered—and it’s hard to see how Toronto city council, the mayor, the premier, and others in government and the media would have continued to take them seriously, much less agree to meet with them. But, hey, double standards are perfectly fine if you’re a member of the right ‘victim group’, as per the narrative.

Demand number 6: Commitment to eliminating carding, including deleting all previously recorded data, reframed regulations, consistent implementation of policy among various police boards, and concrete disciplinary measures for officers who continue to card.

This, in my view, is the one reasonable demand that BLMTO has made. I will consider this further later in this piece. And it should be pointed out that there are some other legitimate grievances that can be pressed against the Toronto Police. But even here, careful attention to the data counsels against embellishing the scale of the problems. For instance, a recent analysis of Toronto Police data by the Toronto Star in 2010 revealed some racial disparities when it comes to simple drug possession and bail rates, in that “blacks were released at scene (Form 9) 58.3 % of the time; whites 64.5 %. As for bail, blacks [were] held 14.3% of the time; whites 10.2. In other words, whites were 1.1 times more likely to be released at the scene, and blacks 1.5 times more likely to be held for bail”. Importantly, however, one should note that this gap has narrowed since the Toronto Star’s last analysis, performed back in 2002, and the gap, both now and then, is very modest, as the numbers above show.

But let’s now look closely at the data on fatal shootings involving police, so as to put the BLMTO narrative under scrutiny—which the mainstream media has by and large failed to do.

Since 1990, there have been 51 fatal shootings involving police (excluding suicides where police were present). At least 18 of these shootings have involved black men, which amounts to 35% of all fatal shootings involving police since 1990. And since Toronto’s black population is approximately 9%, this means that blacks are overrepresented in fatal shootings involving police as a proportion of their population. Additionally, in 17 of the 51 fatal shootings, The Toronto Star was unable to identify with certainty the racial background of the individual killed. So, it is possible that the number of fatal shootings of blacks involving police is higher than 18.

As reported by The Toronto Star, an independent review of SIU data showed that, of fatal shootings involving police in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area between 2000 and 2006, “eight of 12 shootings during that time involved black people — representing 66 per cent of Toronto police shootings during that time period, though black residents represented only 6.7 per cent of the population”.

Now, it is crucially important to underscore that a raw statistical measure of a given outcome, in and of itself, cannot tell us anything about whether that given outcome is unjust, or caused by ‘racism’, etc. There are multiple possible causal explanations for any given measured outcome, and no possible explanation should be treated as a default explanation. Hypotheses need to be tested properly and evaluated comparatively (and not all possible hypotheses of a focal phenomenon will be mutually exclusive—e.g., sometimes one hypothesis will explain a part of the variance, while others will explain the rest). Indeed, the same analyst who conducted the independent review of the SIU just mentioned noted that, according to the data (between 2000 and 2006), police departments in Ontario use force infrequently, and they use it much less than the average American police department. As the president of the Toronto Police Association, Mike McCormack, correctly noted, racial data with respect to fatal police shootings should ultimately be viewed in the context of the circumstances in which such shootings occur, including the percentage of fatal shootings that occur in response to emergency calls, and particularly whether the individual shot was wielding a weapon, and, if so, the manner in which it was wielded.

More fundamentally, the human mind did not evolve to deal particularly well with the kind of number crunching that is required to make rational and objective sense of such social phenomena. Well-documented cognitive biases in psychology attest to this. Of most relevance for our purposes is the availability heuristic, as well as the closely-related phenomenon of availability cascades (discovery of the availability heuristic won Danny Kahneman a Nobel Prize (awarded after the death of his colleague, Amos Tversky)). Stated simply, the availability heuristic is the cognitive bias that makes things that are more memorable and easily retrievable from memory appear much more frequent and important than they really are. For example, as Wikipedia puts it:

“when asked to rate the probability of a variety of causes of death, people tend to rate ‘newsworthy’ events as more likely because they can more readily recall an example from memory. Moreover, unusual and vivid events like homicides, shark attacks, or lightning are more often reported in mass media than common and un-sensational causes of death like common diseases”.

The related phenomenon of availability cascades occurs when, for instance, mainstream media are led to increasingly report on sensationalized cases. Availability cascades are fueled via positive feedback: an initial news report of some event—or set of events—sparks a catalytic reaction of further reporting on that event and events like it, which in turn shapes how common the wider populace perceives the event type to be. In their lengthy discussion of availability cascades, Cass Sunstein and Timur Kuran explain how such cascades can have a distorting and chilling effect on public discourse. Because mainstream media-fueled availability cascades can potentially change the beliefs of many individuals, they can thereby change the costs associated with expressing contrary beliefs. For instance, someone with a belief at variance with the dominant narrative created by an availability cascade might opt to keep silent, on pain of suffering personal and professional costs for airing their disagreement (or even doubt). In addition, ‘entrepreneurs’ of availability cascades (i.e., activists) can self-servingly harness the power of cascades if they can manage to convince journalists and politicians to speak and write about events connected with the agendas that said availability entrepreneurs are trying to further.

BLMTO’s agitation can be viewed as having successfully initiated an availability cascade, given the sustained media coverage of the Andrew Loku case. Coupled with the media frenzy surrounding the shooting of Sammy Yatim, it is quite possible that such availability cascades have led to an increase in anti-cop sentiments among citizens of Toronto (and the wider region) (see, for instance, the relevant poll below). And, incidentally, such availability cascades might have further caused those with differing perspectives to feel less inclined to air them, lest they run the risk of being publicly accused as ‘insensitive’, ‘racist’, and so forth. So these cascades, in changing the broad cost-benefit dynamics of opinion broadcast, could very well have had a negative impact on public discourse—namely, by tamping down on critical and informed discussion of the relevant issues, allowing one dominant perspective to go largely unchallenged and unexamined. Just as importantly, if not more so, in changing public discourse, availability cascades can lead politicians to further (or at least pay lip service to) some agenda—even, crucially, when they have private doubts or disagreements with that agenda.

Placed in a larger context, and in view of the availability bias, it is striking how distorted perceptions can be. BLMTO, via the mainstream media, has managed to convince many—including themselves—that an epidemic of illegal police shootings of black men is self-evident, when, using the aforementioned conservative estimate, only 18 black men in Toronto have been killed by police in the last quarter century. Moreover, keep in mind that, without looking at the details of each case, it is unknown how many of those killings were justified or unjustified. Granted, (and this should go without saying) any loss of life is tragic—but looking directly at the numbers gives perspective, keeps our emotions in check, and allows for a detached, objective appraisal of magnitude. Furthermore, why do BLM, and its Canadian offshoot, BLMTO, avoid highlighting and discussing black-on-black homicide, which kills many more blacks? To put this relatively miniscule number of fatalities in perspective, consider, for example, that among men in Toronto, 198 perished from falls in 2010 alone. In other words, almost four times as many men in Toronto died from fatal falls in a single year (2010) than did people die from gun-related incidents involving police in Toronto in the last quarter century.

It should also be noted that although a number of individuals on the political left in Toronto and the province of Ontario have been calling for the collection of racial data in the realm of policing and crime, calls from those on the left were ironically the impetus for eliminating their collection in the first place. (Perhaps many on the left these days are unaware of how such data shakes out by race. Anyone familiar with racial crime data knows that such data is neither politically correct nor particularly flattering for blacks.)

Because of the power of the mainstream media to distort our thinking regarding the prevalence and interpretation of various phenomena, it has the capacity to give rise to attitudes and policies that ultimately cause more harm than good. As Cass Sunstein and Timur Kuran point out, and in the context of human cognitive biases:

“In cases where the costs are not as clear, the content of media coverage may have major consequences for people’s understanding, by determining the relative availability of both the relevant data and their interpretation. Insofar as the availability heuristic shapes people’s interpretations and desired policy responses, the media may lead people to exaggerate the dangers of the situation at hand, convince them that its elimination should receive priority, and make them discount the inconveniences that would accompany an elimination attempt.”

(On the other hand, it’s also worth mentioning that Sunstein and Kuran also state that “the opposite effects are possible too; through neglect the media may breed ignorance about a genuine danger, thus dampening the demand for action”.)

Has the mainstream media in Toronto shaped the public’s perception of both police and Black Lives Matter Toronto, and, if so, to what extent? This is tough to say with any certainty, as per usual, but a recent poll is at least consistent with the hypothesis that the mainstream media in the city has influenced people’s views on the relevant issues. 55% of residents polled support the BLMTO movement, and 50% believe that there is ‘systemic racism’ in the city (and it appears that the term was not defined when residents were polled, so they were free to associate it with anything at all). Given what we know about cognitive biases, it is certainly not farfetched to think that many Torontonians have very distorted views of the circumstances surrounding Andrew Loku’s death and the details of the SIU investigation (as well as other high-profile cases involving police shootings in the U.S.). Rather than carefully analyze the official report issued by the SIU, much of the media coverage has been presented in a truncated or misleading way, and many commentators have filtered the case through the BLMTO narrative. Add to this other cognitive heuristics that generally make humans cognitive misers—what with mental shortcuts in thought and knee-jerk, emotionally-laden reactions—the recent outrage over the shooting death of Sammy Yatim at the hands of another officer, and you have a toxic brew that gives rise to anti-cop sentiment across the city and larger metro area. In the case of the Sammy Yatim shooting, it is interesting to note how a single, tragic case involving but one unhinged officer can for many people taint the entire police force. What is also interesting, in this regard, is how many will take isolated cases such as this and use it to generalize all cops—an instance of essentializing, which, although a natural human inclination stitched into our mind by natural selection, is nonetheless seen as immoral when the target is other human demographic groups (especially non-whites), but which is hypocritically much more acceptable when the target is groups such as the police. (Parenthetically, note how the amplification of the Sammy Yatim shooting by the media emboldened the more militant activist cells in Toronto.) And as Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash rightly notes, the media does not report on the countless incidents where police have patiently and peacefully dealt with potentially violent individuals, prevented crime, protected the public, or otherwise had cordial interactions with citizens. That is to say, we, the public, do not see all of the good that the police bring.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the desire by many to eliminate police carding may be an instance of good intentions possibly leading to bad outcomes. Again, it is not farfetched to think that the media, in amplifying and in some cases even sensationalizing the narrative of BLMTO, has distorted the thinking on this issue among a large segment of the city populace—or, at the very least, has limited the range of public discourse on this issue by making certain opinions anathema and beyond the pale. For although the city of Toronto, Toronto Police, and its citizens may decide that carding infringes on the rights of its denizens, it is possible that eliminating carding entirely or reducing its occurrence substantially would come at the cost of elevated crime levels. I suggest this not to argue that such a proposition is necessarily true, or that carding is even ethical or lawful, but rather to highlight that this is an empirical question. Suppose, for argument’s sake, that a sufficient level of rigorous investigation into this matter resulted in an awareness (that is, strong evidence) that the elimination of carding, or even just its significant reduction, did, in fact, lead to an increase in crime. Suppose, further, that this increase in crime was especially felt in areas of Toronto with high numbers of blacks. The city, and particularly its black citizens, might then be put in the highly unfortunate situation of having to decide which of two bad arrangements they would prefer:

1) a high amount of carding which ruefully disproportionately affects demographic groups such as blacks (and those categorized by police as ‘brown’), but which reduces crime levels across the city, and especially in areas with high black and non-white populations; or 2) no carding (or a substantial decrease of carding) and a higher crime rate across the city, and particularly in neighborhoods with high black and non-black populations.

Again, I float this scenario as an empirical possibility. It is also possible that carding, done to some unspecified extent, does reduce crime, but whereby the effect is generated not by carding per se, but rather by, say, instilling in would-be criminals a kind of deep, intuitive, gut feeling of being surveilled by police (which could also exert subconscious effects on would-be criminals)—a kind of ‘omnipresent watchful eye’, a la Big Brother or the Panopticon. This alternative hypothesis is far from being outlandish, because we now know, thanks to work in the psychology of religion, that priming individuals with being ‘watched’ by others or by ‘God’, or even just the presence of a smiley face placard, can affect their thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and in a variety of contexts. One finding of this body of scientific research is that such priming increases pro-social behavior (and accordingly decreases cheating, free-riding, and so on).

So, if it should turn out that carding (done to some unspecified extent) reduces crime, and if, further, the effect could be similarly achieved merely through instilling a sense of being surveilled, police might be able to place manned cruisers in areas known for elevated crime rates, and for extended periods of time (perhaps more or less permanently, with cruisers and officers rotating on a shift basis). Alternatively—or in addition to cruisers—police might instill the sense of being watched by installing permanent video cameras in a variety of crucial areas throughout the city. Of course, such strategies also have ethical dimensions, even if they could help combat crime. But in the messy, complex real world, tough decisions and trade-offs are often necessary. And in case one has qualms about this idea, they should ask whether police should pay equal attention to men and women, even though we know that when it comes to violent crime, for instance, men are much more likely to be perpetrators than women.

In fact, there is evidence that proactive policing, such as carding and ‘stop-and-frisk’, are effective in reducing crime. For instance, Weisburd, Wooditch, Weisburd, and Yang’s analysis of stop, question, and frisk practices in New York City found that the practices are a modest deterrent of crime. And as Heather Mac Donald notes, such evidence is in line with longer-term trends:

“[The] reactive style of policing dominated law enforcement until the early 1990s, when the New York Police Department embraced data-driven, proactive policing. The NYPD’s revolutionary new philosophy held that the police could prevent felony crime by reducing low-level lawlessness and intervening in suspicious conduct; that philosophy spread nationwide and ushered in a record-breaking 20-year national crime drop, now at risk in urban areas.”

The BLMTO protests and media sensationalism can also very well lead to more crime. Indeed, this already appears to be the case in the United States, with the backlash against police having led to under-policing, which in turn has led to increased crime. This phenomenon has even been dubbed the ‘Ferguson Effect’, and the latest analysis of the data shows that it is likely to be real. As the ever-sharp and brave Heather Mac Donald has pointed out, the Ferguson Effect is strongest precisely in those cities it would predict as being the most at-risk, namely those “with high black populations, low white populations, and high preexisting rates of violent crime”.

In Chicago, for instance, gun violence has shot up and the arrest rate has dropped since the video release of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

 

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Officers in Chicago and elsewhere, it now appears, are scaling back on their police activity, for fear of being the next cop getting national media attention. It’s even been alleged that the NYPD has intentionally pulled back on their policing activity due to being vilified by (leftist) Mayor Bill de Blasio. In Toronto, categories of crime such as shootings and homicides are up compared to this time the previous year. So it is quite possible that similar dynamics have begun to affect the Toronto Police, if not via top-down influences within the force, then at a more psychological level, with officers, similar to their American counterparts, not wanting to be the next cop getting (quite unwanted) mainstream media attention.

It is probably too much to hope for widespread, clear-eyed, fact-based analysis of the ‘concerns’ of Black Lives Matter and its Toronto offshoot—although brave journalists like Heather Mac Donald have done so valiantly. I close out with a couple of videos that underscore the bankruptcy of the Black Lives Matter movement—trenchant criticisms from Ben Shapiro and Larry Elder that, by my lights, are devastating.

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11 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter Toronto Debunked (with Stats, Empiricism, and Logic)

  1. Interesting article, got my mind spinning. One thing stuck out though about demand #4. I don’t think their demand was that the African Canadian Legal Clinic acts as the coroner though, only that the inquest is held as requested by the clinic.

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  2. Hey this is a good piece. Not very PC that’s for sure. Let’s just cut the crap when it comes to BLMTO: they’re following a trend. “Social Justice” BS is very popular right now, if it weren’t than Beyonce would have had a different theme for her halftime show, and young people here want a piece of the action. But what to do, when you’ve never faced any sort of actual, systemic racism? Well, BLMTO has shown us that you can’t let minor details like that get in the way of your ambitions. Obviously none of them will admit this, but when that unfortunate guy with the hammer got killed, they were happier than a pig in shit. It gave them an excuse to LARP as civil-rights activists, with their little camping trip there. I’m also convinced that they were just as disappointed in officer Forcillo getting convicted for the Yatim shooting as the officer himself. They would have loved nothing better than for him to get off and an excuse for them to cause shit.

    I think a fundamental flaw with BLM will be the same thing as with Occupy. Namely, that hardcore “activist” types usually fall in to 2 categories: unemployable mental cases, and Sharpton-esque hustlers. Just look at Sandy Hudson, one of the leaders of BLMTO. She’s embroiled in a scandal with U of T where she (alledgedly) made out like a bandit when she was president of the student union.
    http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/robyn-urback-how-did-a-champion-for-lower-tuition-fees-at-u-of-t-end-up-with-a-247000-payout

    http://www.studentunion.ca/court-cases/misc/utsu-v-hudson/

    http://thevarsity.ca/2015/09/24/utsu-sues-former-executive-director-president-vice-president-internal-and-services/

    You will notice that wherever BLM causes a ruckus, it always comes with a demand for some new position to be created or existing jobs to be replaced with “people of color” – and reading between the lines, cronies of BLM. It makes me sick to see the hateful rhetoric that gets spewed by this terrible organization gain traction in such a beautiful, peaceful and multicultural city like Toronto.

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    1. Thank you. Yeah, I was aware of Hudson being involved in that controversy. If true, she sounds like a student union version of Frank Underwood. Back in April, she spoke with an anchor for a local news program in order to defend the malicious comments of Khogali. She treated the anchor quite poorly and kept to the victim narrative throughout:

      http://www.citynews.ca/2016/04/05/black-lives-matter-co-founder-tweets-about-killing-men-and-white-folks/

      Carefully watching the footage of Toronto Police put out the fire and remove the contraptions they had outside police headquarters (despite being asked by police to remove them), it’s not too hard to see that the protesters were looking to fabricate outrage of being ‘attacked’ by police (so as to further their agenda).

      I suspect the Social Justice Warrior phenomenon will get worse before it gets better (assuming it does get better). Since the provenance of the phenomenon appears to be the universities, the virus will probably need to first be fought on campuses – stiff resistance to them from university Deans and Presidents starting this fall would be a great start. The most visible and vocal members of BLMTO also seem to originate from the SJW madness currently metastasizing on college campuses. And as you point out, SJWism is incentivized in various ways right now (and administrators fearful of employment termination are likewise incentivized to simply comply with demands). Dartmouth College has already fully caved and is devoting millions to essentially become America’s first illiberal campus – so there’s one school that’s already a lost cause:

      http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7701

      What you pointed out about job creation is also already well under way on college campuses – Heather Mac Donald has a great in-depth expose of the financially-draining, bureaucratic diversity industry that has been firmly entrenched in the U of California system. Two sociologists, Campbell and Manning, have argued that the madness stems from a social phase transition that’s occurring, where the overarching moral culture in America (and, in essence, the rest of the Anglo-sphere) is shifting from a dignity-based one to a ‘victim’-based one:

      http://www.academia.edu/10541921/Microaggression_and_Moral_Cultures

      The gist of the above paper is summarized in this video:

      An alternative but quite speculative idea is that these SJW Millennials are damaged goods at a biological level. For instance, maybe vaccines that were rolled out in the 90s adversely affected them in some way (i.e., by inducing immune responses at sensitive periods during development, leading to increased anxiety overall; there is evidence for that sort of thing in rodents – see the comment at the link below):
      http://infoproc.blogspot.ca/2015/11/microaggression-and-moral-cultures.html#comment-2361519103

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  3. Hello Niwrad:
    Did you overlook that BLMTO demands were made before the SIU report was released? It was BMLTO protests which precipitated the release of the SIU report. The lack of public reports from the SIU is no doubt a contributing factor into “observers and commenters fail[ing] to describe the event in its proper context.” Demands 2 or 3 may have been different or non-existent if the SIU was in the regular practice of releasing their reports. Now, with the release of the partial report, it’s possible to examine the situation and consider what could have been done differently. (Not to second-guess the officers involved but to inform future encounters.) The Ontario Ombudsman recently recommended increased de-escalation training as an example. Personally, I’m thinking, if the police receive a report that an assailant has a non-projectile weapon, then at least one officer could arrive on the scene with a riot shield and thus provide additional safety while they attempt to de-escalate the situation (as an example).
    I’ll check out some of the links you posted to the Mac Donald articles later. Thanks.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comments.

      The SIU news release (which I linked to in my essay) is dated March 18, 2016. BLMTO listed their demands in a news release dated March 24, 2016, as reported by The Toronto Star: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/04/03/inside-torontos-black-lives-matter-camp.html

      So, at least on those grounds, I’m assuming that the demands were formally issued after the SIU news release. And my understanding is that the SIU issues statements on the cases they investigate, without external promptings. So their statement on the Loku case, I presume, would have been made regardless of protest from BLMTO.

      You claim that there’s a lack of public reports coming from the SIU. But how would you square that accusation with, for instance, this section of their website, which publishes news releases on their investigations? http://www.siu.on.ca/en/news.php

      Regarding demand #3, it is possible that the video footage could potentially be released, provided that the identities of the officers on the scene could be protected through careful video editing (i.e., blurring). That would at least be a reasonable contention that could perhaps be negotiated amongst all relevant parties. But taken at face value, BLMTO’s demand (taken verbatim, as reproduced in The Toronto Star’s report) regarding the video is reckless (owing to the fact that it would put the safety of the officers (and perhaps also their families) in serious danger). Toronto Police have recently investigated a threat made on social media that was made towards the unidentified officer that shot Loku: http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/08/cops-investigate-disturbing-facebook-post

      I fully agree with you with respect to pro-actively implementing measures that can help police forces prevent future fatal shootings of individuals suffering from mental health issues. There is an effort being untaken among Toronto Police and police forces across Canada and the United States to this end (my essay contains links to some sources covering this).

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      1. Sorry Niwrad, I didn’t realize your discussion was based on the SIU news releases. After the BLM protests, the SIU released a redacted report; there’s a link at the end of this cbc article dated Apr 29: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/police-officers-conduct-threatened-credibility-of-siu-probe-into-andrew-loku-death-report-1.3559597
        However, the contents of the report in my opinion are not substantially different from the news release.

        I’m not aware of the arguments in favour of releasing the names of the officers involved, so I currently have no position on the matter, but at the same time, I’m not convinced any harm would come to the officers if their names were released. In some of the cases in the US, the names were released. Whenever there is a coroner’s inquest here in Canada the names are released when the officers testify. As far as I’m aware nothing untoward has occurred. In the article you linked to, the matter is still under investigation, including trying to determine if it’s “someone trying to make it look like” someone else. Of course, all such threats should be taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent.

        Which articles are you referring to, with regards to pro-active implementation? I found these links:
        http://www.cbc.ca/firsthand/episodes/hold-your-fire
        http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/opinion/making-policing-safer-for-everyone.html?_r=1
        https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/07/29/the_iacobucci_reports_unwise_colourblindness.html
        Let me know if I missed any and I’ll check them out. Am I wrong to say these are still mostly recommendations with the exception of some trials mentioned in California and Hamilton? I’ve just started reading the Toronto Police Service’s The Way Forward interim report, so I’ll see what commitments they’ve made with regards to implementation in their report.

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      2. I would say that the case for retaining the confidentiality of officers involved in these high profile cases, both in the U.S. and Canada, is even stronger now than before. The most recent spate of ‘revenge’ killings of police officers in various states a few weeks ago indicates how bad the climate has gotten (thanks in very large part to mass media sensationalism and President Obama fueling the animosity towards police). There have been other killings of this nature ever since the BLM movement was spawned – the one that comes most readily to mind is the case in which NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed in a ‘revenge’ murder for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

        But for anyone paying close attention to the BLM movement, there were early signs, prior to the most recent wave of murders of police, of followers calling for violent action. Here are two clips demonstrating this:

        Also this:

        And, for what it’s worth, violent rhetoric was all over social media even before the latest deaths of police officers.

        At this point, it may be that police officers in general, rather than those involved in high-profile cases, are most at-risk for succumbing to vigilantes.

        Once again, regarding the other matter, I fully agree that more can likely be done by police departments to reduce the number of unnecessary altercations and civilian deaths. That issue seems to me to be a very valid concern. On the other hand, I think that many greatly underestimate how tense and dangerous interactions between police and non-compliant citizens can often get. Anecdotally, I’ve seen interviews with and videos of individuals highly critical of police officers voluntarily engage in simulations requiring them to interact with non-compliant individuals. One common denominator among these folks is that they confess to being very surprised by how different the situation is compared to how they imagined it to be in the abstract.

        Thanks again for your comments.

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  4. Hello Niwrad:
    The murder of the NYPD officers was indeed similar to the most recent cases … an attack on random officers. So I would agree that “police officers in general, rather than those involved in high-profile cases, are most at-risk for succumbing to vigilantes.” Is the risk to officers involved in civilian deaths significantly greater than that of their fellow officers? Perhaps there is a more objective way to determine an answer … assign a judge to adjudicate the matter. Police could share the intelligence they have collected regarding threats to officers, and the judge can weigh that against whatever reasons there are for releasing the names, and issue a decision.

    I decided to look into your claim that “there have been other killings of this nature ever since the BLM movement was spawned” which I’m interpreting to mean that you believe the BLM movement is a contributing factor to these ‘revenge’ killings. I found a post which shares your opinion here (http://nypost.com/2014/12/21/there-is-blood-on-hands-of-those-who-demanded-dead-cops/) and a doctor in this next article said that “maybe” “the publicity about the Garner and Brown situations” was a factor (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/nyregion/gunman-may-have-used-garner-and-brown-cases-to-justify-police-killings-experts-say.html). I then tried to find if Brinsley, the NY shooter, had any contact with the BLM movement … I came up empty. The middle video you posted does note that Brinsley was a spectator at a protest, but Mr. Skolnik states that the protest that Brinsley attended occurred before things got heated. In Dallas, the shooter “told officers he was angry about the recent spate of police shootings, and that he was not affiliated with any other group.” (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-july-8-2016-1.3670043/dallas-shooting-i-can-t-believe-it-didn-t-happen-earlier-says-former-baltimore-police-sergeant-1.3670065) Though he did apparently like on facebook “the Nation of Islam and the Black Riders Liberation Party, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described as ‘hate groups.’” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/micah-johnson-dallas-sniper-police-shootings-1.3672068) These groups of course pre-date the BLM movement.

    Next, what’s the extent of the anti-police rhetoric within the BLM movement? Again, I couldn’t find anything definitive. In the middle video, Mr. Skolink states that they excise protesters using violent rhetoric from their demonstrations. He also notes the movement is not anti-police. The official(?) BLM website also notes they are not anti-police in their 9th myth about the movement. (http://blacklivesmatter.com/11-major-misconceptions-about-the-black-lives-matter-movement/) After the NYPD murders, protest leaders again denounced all violence (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/22/nyregion/at-demonstrations-a-change-in-tone-after-officers-are-killed.html). If the protesters voicing anti-police rhetoric are in the minority, is it fair to paint the larger peaceful BLM movement with the same brush? Canada and America are free countries after all, anyone can join the protests in the streets. In 2010, when the Black Bloc joined other G20 protesters was it fair to lump them all together? As you know, the Toronto Police (actually just one officer), got into trouble for doing just that (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/mark-fenton-g20-sentencing-1.3635895).

    As for the trigger that pushes unbalanced people over the edge … what about previous negative interactions with the police? (In one of the previous links a former officer points to this possibility). What about the graphic videos showing the deaths of individuals at the hands of police? Video is a powerful medium after all! Wasn’t considered! How about officers escaping prosecution (whether justly or unjustly)? Not considered either. It’s the protests? This link I stumbled upon cautions against blaming the BLM movement (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-lives-matter-violence-cops_us_55e77d82e4b0c818f61a9de8) As I see it, there are multiple potential groups, multiple potential triggers, attributing cause is a fool’s errand, not to mention counterproductive. In reading some of the articles on the NY situation, attributing the murders to the protesters and the Mayor only seems to have ratched-up tensions. The whole situation is very depressing; not enough people seem to be interested in a peaceful resolution. That would likely start by police departments having open and frank discussions with the communities they serve. We unfortunately, don’t seem to be any closer to those discussions taking place.

    That brings me to your peculiar comment of “President Obama fueling the animosity towards police”.
    I’ve heard Obama speak on occasion, the last time being part of his address at the memorial for the Dallas officers. He always seems to be advocating for a peaceful resolution and bringing people together. He’s always careful in what he says especially if an investigation into the event is ongoing; so no doubt his restrained approach has angered both those in the police and black communities who are angered he’s not more firmly on their side. Here’s the most recent example I’ve read of a black protester denouncing Obama for trying to “pacify us” (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/22/i-wasnt-afraid-i-took-a-stand-in-baton-rouge-because-enough-is-enough?CMP=share_btn_fb). Pacify I can understand, but anti-police? Maybe you can indulge me one last time and share the address by Obama that caused you to describe him as such? Preferably the full statement and not something that has been selectively edited, and the date of the address in case I need to find it from another source.
    Thanks.

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    1. Whether officers involved in high-profile civilian deaths are currently as much of a target as officers in general seems to me to be an open question. For what it’s worth, I would not want to be, say, Darren Wilson right now. In fact, threats were made online towards the (black) officer who shot Sylville Smith in Milwaukee recently. Such threats towards officers, as I alluded to above, have become increasingly more common.
      http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/latest-10-arrests-overnight-calmer-milwaukee-41422905

      And as per the ‘Ferguson Effect’, it appears that the desire on the part of officers to avoid any potential media attention is a key contributor to police departments scaling back their policing activities in various parts of the country (to the truly lamentable detriment of black communities) – and as mentioned in my essay, this can occur from the bottom-up, with officers choosing on their own accord to pull back on the manner in which they police, rather than as top-down instructions from their superiors telling them to do so.

      I believe that organizations like the SIU in Ontario are quite well suited to their mandated tasks (but I also believe that reviews of its operations should be carried out regularly). I’m not sure what benefit would be gained by revealing the identities of officers involved in high-profile shootings, especially now with threats surfacing. Perhaps more in-depth coverage of the nature of the SIU would allay any suspicions and worries citizens and BLMTO have of its procedures.

      As for the connection between the official BLM organization and violence against police officers that I alleged: It’s not that I think that officials with the ‘official’ organization call for violence; it’s that I think they are a necessary condition for the violence, riots, and high tensions that we’ve witnessed. I think that the official BLM organization, plus the corporate mainstream media, are two central factors – two necessary conditions, if you will – that have created and nurtured the conditions that have allowed for the more unsavory effects to spew out (including what we saw in those clips above, for example – even if those various individuals are not members of the official BLM organization).

      Just to spell out my thoughts on the causal picture a bit more: I’d contend that the official BLM organization, as distinct from the larger ‘movement’ in the wider milieu, is a necessary and very possibly sufficient condition for the manner in which the narrative of unjust targeting of blacks by police officers has been made salient in the mainstream media and on social media. These media platforms, in turn, are necessary conditions for the violent targeting of cops, and for the violent rhetoric towards them on the part of a number of citizens – or so I would contend. A similar argument could be made, for example, regarding those who are not official members of al-Qaeda or Islamic State but who nonetheless are inspired by them to adopt radical beliefs, and, in some situations, kill others. Plausibly, better handling of the matter by the media will quell the outrage that has been boiling over recently.

      So, for these reasons, I don’t think that it’s a fool’s errand, nor counterproductive, to get a clearer understanding of the causal factors that have contributed to things getting so heated.

      As I discussed in my essay, the mainstream media is generally not a good vehicle for understanding social phenomena in a deep and objective way, and, probably more damning, can very easily convey distorted if not untruthful depictions regarding such phenomena (e.g., with respect terrorism, the prevalence of which is much, much lower than many people think, thanks in large part to media sensationalism). Social media likely also plays an important role these days in creating outrage, but little objective analysis.

      Half the population is below average in IQ (since general intelligence is normally distributed). These media platforms (whether social media or mainstream media) are hence sitting on dynamite, figuratively speaking. What they propagate matters to what gets thought and felt.

      Parenthetically, and to take just one example, many still believe the myth that Michael Brown had his hands raised and said ‘Hands up, don’t shoot!’, despite the DOJ report explicitly refuting this; the mainstream media, from the start, simply ran with that convenient narrative without sufficiently corroborating it. Moreover, people are quite recalcitrant to having their mistaken beliefs corrected by evidence. So what the mainstream media says and shows matters quite a bit to mass public perceptions. And as we’ve seen time and again, the media has interpreted many of these high-profile cases spectacularly wrong, making the overall climate that much more combustible.

      With individuals such as the Dallas shooter, the BLM narrative can create a sense of legitimation for the belief that blacks are being unjustly targeted by police on a massive scale. It seems to me quite plausible that this sense of legitimacy can factor into whether certain individuals become violent and strike out against police. The Dallas shooter, for instance, seems to have been pre-primed for such a crime (as you rightly noted), needing ‘only’ the wider catalytic backdrop that has been facilitated by BLM and the media to spur him to action.

      Regarding President Obama in relation to BLM, here’s an illustration of what I had in mind. After the recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, he made an address from Warsaw, Poland, and explicitly cited statistics pertaining to arrests and criminal justice processing, which show racial disparities.

      He used these statistical disparities to buttress his claim that blacks (but also Hispanics) are treated unfairly by police and by the justice system. Now, I don’t know whether the President knew better and was lying or was simply incompetent to analyze these issues, but one certainly *cannot* infer what the cause(s) of disparate outcomes are from such data alone (although his administration certainly has based other policies on this fallacious kind of thinking, unfortunately).

      And then, just days later, at the memorial service for the fallen police officers in Dallas, the President repeated these themes – of African-Americans being unjustly persecuted:

      OBAMA: “And so when African-Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment, when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently. So that if you’re black, you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested; more likely to get longer sentences; more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime. When mothers and fathers raised their kids right, and have the talk about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — yes, sir; no, sir — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door; still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy.” [Full transcript here: http://time.com/4403543/president-obama-dallas-shooting-memorial-service-speech-transcript/%5D

      I fully agree with what you said regarding open and frank discussion between police and people in the communities they serve. That could certainly go a long way, as well as more systematic data collection, more research, and much better framing of the issues by the media. One of President Obama’s recent televised town hall meetings with community members and police representatives was certainly a good move in that direction – and he at least deserves credit for that. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a number of African-American communities across the country desperately need a strong police presence, particularly to undercut the substantially anarchic conditions that provide fertile conditions for gang formation and inter-gang violence, which of course kills way, way too many blacks (a real ongoing tragedy). From a criminological perspective, there are a number of other factors that I think need to be addressed in order to combat crime in these communities, but that’s a whole other, complex topic.

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