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Windsor president, students file complaints against police

Three months after arrests at party, Windsor president criticizes police, alleges “over-reaction”


 

Students at the University of Windsor are filing a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission this week alleging Windsor police officers were influenced by racism when they broke up an on-campus party in January. The group Students Against Anti-Black Racism says that students were harassed, subjected to racial slurs, assaulted, and intimidated by the officers attempting to evacuate the student pub after a party that was mainly attended by African-Canadian students. Police say that there is no evidence that officers did anything untoward, that police were called to the scene because fights had broken out at the club, and that race was irrelevant to police actions.

Three months after the original incident, university president Ross Paul has also filed a complaint with the police department. On April 10, Paul called for a full investigation. Paul’s letter to police chief Gary Smith questioned the large police presence and alleged use of a police dog for crowd control.

The complaints stem from a Caribbean-themed party held January 20 called Pasa Pasa. More than 25 police officers responded when school security guards called for assistance clearing the building. A YouTube video shows police officers pinning a struggling male student to the floor while other students yell. There is also a police dog on site. Student say the dog was used to intimidate them.

A number of students were also arrested and detained overnight. Two students were later charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

See the video here:

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“It was absolutely insane. I was in shock,” student Lydia Chan said while describing the scene in the lobby outside the student pub at the University of Windsor in the early morning of January 20. “It was absolutely insane how many police there were. … People being pushed against walls. People on the floor.”

Although the incident occurred in late January (we previously covered the story here), this week’s complaints are the first to be filed formally. David Tanovich, a law professor at the university, said that students had little faith in the complaint system, which involves police investigating themselves. “If you speak to any lawyer dealing with suing the police, they will telling you that there is no faith in the complaint process and can be damaging to later efforts.”

“I’m not wiling to put myself out there. A lot of people are afraid,” Chan said, when interviewed shortly after the incident.

University president Paul is calling for an external investigation by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, rather than an internal investigation. The commission’s mandate is to ensure police act in a fair manner and are accountable. Paul believes this outside investigation would help restore students’ trust in the complaint process.

Paul also released a memo to the university community last week that urged the students to file complaints and laid out steps for resolving the issue on campus. “Not surprisingly, police and student versions of the events of the evening of January 19/20 are not exactly the same,” he wrote. “However, I have found the many student accounts of the evening to be credible and supportive of the assertion that there was police over-reaction to the problems encountered and that the numbers of police (26 at least) and the presence of a police dog contributed as much to the difficulties of the evening as to their resolution.”

Read president Ross Paul’s statement here.

In an interview with Maclean’s in February, staff sergeant Ed McNorton confirmed that 26 officers were dispatched to the university campus after reports of fights breaking out in the pub. There were also two campus security guards and two off-duty officers at the event. “The fear was that it would get out of control because there was a large number of people at the event,” he said.

But that is a very different scenario than what Chan remembers. She said that the only altercation in the pub was between two women and never got to the level of physical violence. The women argued but were always feet apart from each other and the off-duty cops and campus security did not intervene, according to Chan.

“The first incident that happened physically was when the officer detained a man,” Chan alleged. She claims that she saw a police officer physically assault a male who was pinned to the ground after the man brushed away the hand of an officer who was attempting to evacuate the building. According to Chan, the man received at least eight blows to the head although he had his hands raised and was saying, “Okay, okay.” She said his head was bleeding and he was not struggling.

McNorton said he hasn’t seen evidence in police reports that officers behaved inappropriately. “There were arrests made and force is justified because the people arrested were resisting arrest,” he said.

Chan says that she took out her cell phone to videotape one man being pinned to the wall, but an officer approached her and threatened to arrest her if she taped the scene. Chan obeyed. Chan also says that when she later asked a police officer for his badge number he walked away.

Chan’s story is in line with a number of complaints from students that their cell phones were confiscated for videotaping and taking photos of the incident. The only cell phone video that has been brought forward, posted on Facebook and YouTube, is the one above. The video shows a shadowy struggle but it is not clear whether the two men being detained were resisting arrest or if the police were using excessive force.

McNorton said that there was nothing in police reports about confiscating cell phones. He suggested that it would be unusual for officers to do this. “It is quite legal to have [cell phones] and it is quite legal to record anything as long as they aren’t interfering with police doing their jobs,” he said.

Chan believes that the incident was racially motivated. She pointed out that there was an event the evening before hosted by a different ethnic group that did not require the number of police present on January 20. “I’m not quite sure why there had to be 30 officers. I don’t know why every officer on duty on a Saturday night was at our school,” Chan said.

But McNorton maintains that the incident was not racially motivated. “It wasn’t a racial incident,” he said. “The incident had absolutely nothing to do with race. It was about the behavior of a few people.”


 
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Windsor president, students file complaints against police

  1. Jerk cops.

  2. Wow, it’s a Caribbean-themed party! That means the cops MUST have been motivated by racism! This is yet another example of how it’s okay for hippies to assault a police officer, but it’s not acceptable for a police officer to do his/her job.

    The double standards here are killing Canada. Hope you hippies are happy.

  3. “Hippies” Tim? I guess you missed the part about Windsor U’s President (Ross Paul) filing a complaint in support of the students. Now, I’m not one to pass judgment on the character or trustworthiness of a university president (I’m only 19), but Mr Paul taking a stand for some of his students is quite a gesture.

    Now, to dispel some of your other insinuations:
    1) Do some black people use the “race card” too much in certain situations? Yes. Is this present in this case? I don’t know. But I suspect that previous incidents involving excessive police force lead a few to suggest that race may have played a factor. For more information about police/black relations, google DWB. Or simply ask a black person. You just might get an earful.
    2) Do police sometimes use excessive force? Yes. Are all police guilty of it? No, but a few crazies really do ruin the bunch, as well as the reputations of others.

    I would really encourage everyone to learn more about cultural experiences of different groups before positing comments. It could make for interesting debates, and actually learning.

  4. The fact that you imply I’m stupid is proof enough no debate should take place. You have your beliefs and I have mine – we have nothing to gain from “debate”.

    And, hey, maybe the U of W president is a closet hippie?

  5. Nik… I have 20 years experience in the post-secondary education system. It is rewarding to hear someone of your age speak out with such passion, insight and knowledge. Your points are spot on! In most scenarios, we don’t know enough about the challenges of the other “side” to pass valid judgement. And it is about sharing information and learning. Yes… there will always be people who take advantage–that will never change. It makes it harder when those people are in a position of power. The world is a much smaller place than it used to be, and it’s time for all races to put their minds together to solve the larger problems that we have that have the potential to eradicate all of us if we ignore them. Well said!

  6. I am glad this has happened. I am an alumni of the University of Windsor and I have seen how the Windsor police operates. This is not a bunch of students pulling the “race card”. The Windsor police often pull tactics like this especially when members of the Black community are involved. I myself have experianced this numerous of times. I was once in a car on my way to the casino and we were stopped by police (for a “routine check”). I was the only black person in the car and 2 of the other passangers ( white males) had records (for minor offences) I don’t have a record, yet i was the only one pulled out of the car searched and questioned, for what I don’t know. When I asked for the badge number she said, ” Why do I need to know that?” and told me to get back in the car.
    I have also been to various parties at the University of Windsor and at the end of events run by the black student groups, police are always outside waiting yet when the event is being run by another group, no cops. When you go to the clubs in downtown Windsor there are always police patrolling the streets, but there is always at least 5 police cars, police dogs and a paddy wagon outside of the club where more members of the black community frequent.
    Windsor Police needs to be held accountable for their actions. I really hope that something good comes out of it and people in authority learn that they can’t assume or pick on people because of their race.

  7. I have to agree that police in windsor very racially biased. They try to intimidate us. They target groups of racial minorites. Its sad….. and then they wonder why the community does not support them. I am sure we can all relate to times when we are down town windsor and cops pick on minorites. I remember seeing a guy at school who was very mild mannered in nauture get himself beat for just being drunk( he was not misbehaving or anything of that sort). Now if he was the favoured color i am sure the treatment would be different . its about time some does something…This has to stop and its starts at the top. Residents in windsor need follow politicians and make them earn that vote by getting them to to step up their game when it comes to human rights …

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