Today as Vancouver marks the 5th anniversary of the RCMPs’ killing of Robert Dziekanski, activists memorialized the tragic date with a banner drop next door to the Vancouver Police Department on Main Street at Hastings.
The banner read “H.W.D.P.”, a polish term that literally translates into the saying “Dick up the Ass of the police.” This term has traditionally been used to send a hostile message to police.
In Canada, hostility of this kind is not advanced towards the police enough. Too often we accept the mainstream narrative that the ‘boys in blue’ are just doing their jobs as protectors of the innocent and vulnerable. We attribute police violence and brutality to “bad apples” within the ranks, and rarely to the establishment itself. In Dziekanski’s case, as with the many whose lives have been taken, they [the police] are the murderers of the most vulnerable in our society – indigenous people, immigrants, sexually exploited women, people in poverty and other minorities.
In recent months the B.C. government has congratulated itself for the steps they have taken to resolve the problems within the B.C. RCMP. They established an “independent” investigations office (IIO), so that the police are not directly investigating police incidents, and ideally to enhance accountability. Unfortunately, it appears as though they failed to see that hiring ‘former’ police officers does little to remedy corruption within the ranks. It is slightly naïve to imagine that ‘former’ police officers carry any less bias than do current police officers. More importantly, what will the IIO do to protect these people before they are subject to profiling, stereotyping and violence? How will we put an end to the relentless harassment and brutality of the people who live in the most heavily policed and criminalized community in Canada – the notorious and almost cliché “Downtown Eastside” of Vancouver?
While some officers involved in Dziekanski’s death have found their reputations irreparably tarnished in the media (http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Benjamin+Monty+Robinson+officially +discharged+from+RCMP/6964826/ story .html), and according to a recent CBC article “87% of taser use is down by RCMP in British Columbia. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/10/09/bc-taser…)” little substantive measures have been taken to protect this city’s most vulnerable from the unchecked power and violence of police.
According to the activists who dropped this banner, the steps that have been taken to hold police accountable and to stop police brutality are not even close to enough. Fewer taser incidents does not mean that there have been fewer acts of police brutality and intimidation against marginalized people in Vancouver.
With a continued war against the poor and disenfranchised, we continue to see policies that will almost certainly result in enhanced policing and brutality against the most vulnerable people in our city. Recent increases in policing and crackdowns at skytrain stations across the city provide only the latest example the ever-increasing police state presence.
This is a call to action – a call to stop tolerating the abuse and brutality meted out by police against those who do not have a voice to fight back. Let’s take action before another human being – a Robert Dziekanski, Paul Boyd, Frank Paul or the many more who have lost their lives at the hands of police – is taken on our streets again.
R.I.P. Robert Dziekanski (April 15, 1967- October 14, 2007)