T.O. councillor defends plan to curb gun violence
Toronto City Councillor Michael Thompson appears Wednesday on Canada AM.
Toronto Police Services Chair Pam O'Connell says 'He's stirred up a huge amount of racism.'
Nashville, Tenn. policeman Clifford Mann says his city would never, 'for one second,' tolerate a remark such as the one uttered by Thompson.
A Toronto city councillor is defending his controversial proposal to stop the recent plague of gun violence in the city.
Councillor Michael Thompson says that police should be allowed to "target" young black men at random as part of a crackdown on guns. And he points out that, as a black man, he himself could be stopped under his own plan.
Thompson says a large percentage of the guns being used and a large number of victims are in the black community; and that's where police need to focus.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair immediately rejected Thompson's suggestion, saying the idea is inappropriate and "will not be the practice of our service."
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joined the chorus of politicians criticizing the proposal.
"I don't understand that approach and I'm glad that it's been rejected by police and the mayor," McGuinty said in Toronto on Wednesday.
"I don't think it's sound public policy."
And Toronto Police Services Chair Pam McConnell told CTV Toronto's Alicia Kay Markson that Thompson has "stirred up a huge amount of racism."
"Scaring all of our black youth is not about getting at the thugs. It's about racial profiling. It's very stupid of him to do that and I think he needs to apologize to the community immediately."
But Thompson says he's never asked for racial profiling.
"That has never been what I discussed," he told CTV Toronto. "What I had said is that we ought to basically provide support to the police that are out in the community trying to apprehend young men with guns."
Thompson added he's not calling for police to pull people over just because they're black, but because gun violence is affecting the black community.
The councillor told Canada AM Wednesday that reaction that his office has received via emails and phone calls has been mostly positive.
"And if people are opposed to the idea, then bring forward other suggestions and other ideas that could help," he suggests.
"The interesting thing is there are some positive ideas coming forward. I mean, people are now talking about the problem from a perspective of wanting to actually get to the root of the problem."
"What I'm trying to create is a situation where we have dialogue, where people are bringing forward ideas and options in terms of how to solve the problem."
Black police officers attending the National Black Police association's 33rd conference in Toronto called Thompson's plan a violation of human rights.
"You cannot stop every black person on the road and call them a criminal," police officer Wendell Hendry from Kent, U.K., told CTV Toronto. "What he's doing is calling every young black male a criminal."
Nashville, Tenn. policeman Clifford Mann said his city would never, "for one second," tolerate a remark such as the one uttered by Thompson.
Speaking at the conference, Toronto police Insp. David McLeod defended the councillor.
"I know he's referred to as an idiot, and I'll tell you right out, in his defence, he's not an idiot. He's a very bright man," McLeod told the officers. "(He made) an ill-advised, ill-conceived and perhaps an idiotic comment, but he's not an idiot."
There have been 30 gun-related deaths in Toronto out of the 44 murders in the city so far in 2005.
In a new effort to reduce violence in the city, Blair announced Monday that he's reassigning 100 officers to uniform duty. They will join street patrol officers and provide a bridge until 96 recruits graduate from police college next month.
Blair redeployed 50 officers to a problem area in the northwest section of the city earlier this month.
Meanwhile, in response to the recent spate of gun violence, Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre announced that it would be cancelling its hip-hop night on Sundays.
The club has been the scene of three fatal shootings over the past two weekends.
National Defence Minister Bill Graham applauded the decision by management at the club, which is in his riding, but added that the city needs a broader solution.
Speaking at the launch of a health-care project for Toronto Centre-Rosedale riding residents, Graham said more effort needs to be put into preventing troubled youth from turning to violence.
(with audio television appearance by the councillor on the video column on the right of the page)