Peoples Report on PAVIS and Policing!!!!

15 Mar

November 2012 in Toronto, there was an OIPRD conference on police complaints, which we felt was a platform to put forward the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy(PAVIS)-the new model of policing. In response to this, we of KW Occupy and The Spot Collective interviewed 70 people from the East end of Kitchener as well as downtown to come up with our own understanding of
policing and the PAVIS model, which is being introduced in Kitchener. The reason we chose this target group is because they are more likely to have interactions with Police on a daily basis. Members of this community have been targeted through “consultations” etc. by those implementing this new model of policing.

Given the fact that Dr. Webb, one of the speakers from the OIPRD conference, stated that this model of dealing with police complaints (TAVIS and PAVIS being in community centres etc.) has been used in Northern Ireland successfully, we have includeed, as an appendix, a statement from a Prisoner Support Group on the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) policing model, and whether or not it is effective.

Below are the questions that were given to community members.

The information in this report was drawn from the peoples’ responses based on commonality of experience. It is broken up into eleven parts-based on the questions.

1. Describe your experience with the police in your community.
2. Have you noticed an increase or upsurge of violent policing in the past two years?
3. How do you feel about the amount of force police use?
4. Have you noticed the targeting of specific social or ethnic groups, and classes?
5. What is your opinion of police and intelligence agencies in community centers and other public spaces?
6. In your opinion what role do police play in gentrification?
7. What is your view on accountability?
8. What mechanisms would you like to see implemented to hold police accountable?
9. What is your experience/knowledge of PAVIS?
10. What is your opinion on the role that police play in regards to grass roots politics?
11. What is your opinion on police tactics used during demonstrations?

1. Experience With Police
Several people mentioned good experiences with officers who have been kind and sympathetic, but this seemed to be the exception, and more do to with the individual officers and not the systematic policing practices. The most common experiences people have had with policing are being stopped and searched without being placed under arrest; being asked for their ID when they are not under arrest; being questioned without council present, or even before they have had their  Rights read. Other less prevailant but still common experiences consisted of the use of excessive force in arrests; being arrested on charges that are later dropped, having to stay in jail because of lack of bail; being targeted and pressured into giving information on friends or “people of interest”; and being denied basic rights while in custody.

2. Increase of Police Violence
More and more police have been used as a tool to deal with people with mental health issues. Since they are not mental health workers, they have not had the proper training to do so, leading to escalations of violence and force. Police have also been increasing their use of force toward people whom they perceive as “troublemakers and undesirables”, and have been increasingly targeting people who are guilty by association. One interviewee claimed to have been stopped and boxed in several times by police as a result of, what he feels is, his friendship with a political activist. People who are friends or family of “people of interest” have also been targeted. Police have been used by CAS to apprehend children, many of which are apprehended simply for losing their home for economic reasons. In many instances armed men ripped the children out of the hands of their parents. Another interviewee was forced to leave her house with her child, because of her roommate’s membership in a Communist Party.
The most dangerous is violence by proxy. For example, a native activist was arrested in plain sight, only to be released and given a buisness card by police. They were told to contact the police with information on another activist, making it look to bystanders as if he was an informant. Another example is when police told acvtivists and gang members that an article written about an informant (not police infiltrator) was about them. This was not the case and the writer was left open to violence. Police have also played gang members off of each other, particularly by giving false information (“he said this about you”, etc).
Police using drug addicts as informants, or to do something for them under the pretext that they will be let go in return, is also something being noticed. Furthermore, the police use of dealers in this manner entrenches the dealers’ buisness in the streets, as they are given protection for information.

3. Police Use of Force
Most said they feel that police force, when used, is excessive, and when bruises and such are noticeable, charges like assault police or resist arrest are commonly laid. People feel there is no way to deal with this issue and many feel forced to plead guilty to get out of jail quicker.

4. Targeted Groups
Those who are targeted tend to be homeless people, marginalized communities and racial groups. Evidence of this is the heavy police presence in the downtown core, East End, Paulander etc.; places where there is higher unemployment, poverty, and immigration. Political activists are also targeted, especially if they belong to one of the above mentioned groups, or are organizing in targeted communities.

5. Police Presence at Community Centers
More and more police are present in community centres and public spaces lately, especially since groups that recieve public money are “encouraged” to be police friendly. Police in these spaces, though trying to present a nice face, have asked people questions about other activists, street people and minorities. While some see this simply as the police being nice, others are worried that police are using this as a way to gather information and intimidate. For example, during the conduction of several interviews for this report, police made their presence known. Another example is the fact that CSIS, a intelligence agency, has in the past advertised to recruit in a community space, with a high immigration rate attending. Questions that police ask people when they “chat them up” are also revealing. By asking how is so and so doing, people feel that police are building there friendship maps and keeping tabs on people without being obvious.

6. Gentrification
It was noticed that the reason there are less panhandlers downtown now (as oppossed to several years ago), has nothing to do with an improved economy, but in fact is a result of intensified police presence downtown and the removal of undisireables to make it feel “more comfortable” for the economic group that they are trying to attract. It was also noticed that businesses are quick to refuse service to those not ” dressed nice enough”, even if they have money, and use police to remove them by force. Furthermore, people have noticed an increase in ticketing people of lower income as a deterant for them to be downtown. In cases where business owners assault or chase away poor people, they are more likely to take the side of the business owner.

7. Accountability
generally speaking, people feel that the police have the final say. Even when the court gives a verdict of not guilty, it does nothing to make up for the time that one spent in jail. People feel the police complaints process is useless, and of those interviewed, not one has had a complaint succesfully dealt with. Some feel that protests are one way of holding them accountable, as well as the CopWatch program. Recently, there have been a host of lawsuits against police, with the victim of police violence being awarded money. While this is successfull in some cases, many cannot access this, and it therefore only deals with a case by case basis, not addressing the systemic issues.

8. Mechanisms
Many feel a more just economy would solve alot of the problems, considering police are used to deal with social and political issues. People also feel that communities should have the right to fire police officers (obviously if reasons are just), and communities should have a say in their use.

9. PAVIS
Many of the answers in Questions Two and five answer this. Interestingly, many people see it as good-cop bad-cop dynamics. For example, the good cop the one in community centers talking to people and trying to be a friend, and the bad cop the one acting on the information they get from “chatting people up”.

10. Police and Politics
The people see the police as a political organization, playing a political role. In fact, many said their interest in following politics has alot to do with police targeting activists. This may be a result of downtown Kitchener’s unique situation where many working class people, as well as street people are political activists and organizers. Those interviewed felt that the police’s effect on grassroots politics is negative; activists are being arrested on charges later dropped, police are infiltrating activist communities, and using informants to gather information on political meetings, activists and protests, are felt to be proof of this. Some feel that attending demonstrations make them targets especially if they come from a working class background, are racialized, or are economically marginalized.

11. Tactics at Protests
Those who answered this question noticed heavier police presence at protests and having their pictures taken, as well as retaliation for attending. For example, getting picked up later on charges, getting followed, or getting “jacked”. People stated having been told not to attend protests, and have felt intimidated to openly participate in political activity afterwards, especially if they come from a marginalized background. More interesting are the bail conditions those arrested have faced- they cannot associate with political people, they cannot associate with certain legal above-ground political groups, they cannot attend demonstrations, etc.
It is obvious to those interviewed that these conditions are aimed at stopping people from participating in political activity and has nothing to do with law and order. People have seen an increase in police attempts to recruit informers, infiltrate political organizations etc. Finally, jail sentences seem to be longer, and those who have lower income seem to have more problems getting out.

Appendix one
http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/ann-hansens-statement-her-recent-arrest-imprisonme/14320

Appendix Two
http://www.eirigi.org/campaigns/policing/index.htm
Appendix Three

https://julianichim.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/solas-pow-statement-read-yesterday-at-police-brutality-march-on-psni/

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