Monday, June 29, 2020


I posted here last Tuesday about Wilmot mayor Les Armstrong. I suggested that I agreed with Regional Chair Karen Redman that Mr. Armstrong was "tone deaf". It's all about hot button issues and most professional politicians are experts not at resolving them but at avoiding them. Mayor Armstrong not so much. Talk about incredibly dumb timing with his American video suggesting that the Black Lives Matter movement is fake and not about negative Black life experiences and in particular negative Black experiences in dealing with the police.

Mayor Armstrong has been interviewed by a couple of Waterloo Region Record reporters and while both condemn his bad decision making and initial attempts to justify posting an offensive video, overall I sense that they feel sorry for him. They view him as a 71 year old, out of touch, privileged white dude who just doesn't understand. I tend to agree. That said I am an almost 71 year old, hopefully not out of touch, definitely not privileged white dude. By not privileged I'm suggesting that unlike Mayor Armstrong I have not had above average income for my entire life as he has both as a former police officer and as a long time local and regional politician.

But is there another form of white privilege such as in my dealings with the Waterloo Regional Police? Many years ago while embroiled in an unnecessarily confrontational issue with the Waterloo Region District School Board, I was treated like crap by both the Board members and by those in charge of the Waterloo Regional Police Service. Their harassment, legal and financial threats and legal manipulations were the acts of gutless wonders and cowardly bullies. To this day I look upon school board anti-bullying campaigns as hypocritical posturing along the lines of do as I say not what I do. The biggest school bullies were the senior Board staff and their victims included students and parents.

Notice I said that I was treated like crap by "those in charge of the Waterloo Regional Police Service"? As a middle aged, at the time, white guy usually dressed in a suit with two children in the school system, I was treated very well by any and all rank and file cops that were sent by their superiors to harass me. I even was told by one officer that he enjoyed being sent to deal with me because knowing that I was both dressed up and reasonable he felt that there would be no wrestling on the ground or even having to carry me off the premises because I didn't want any officers to injure their backs by having to carry me. In other words I didn't incite the police officers as they were not the source of my issues with the school board. That said would those same rank and file white police officers have treated me as well if I had been black? I like to think that they would and yet I suspect that after interactions with numerous officers eventually I would have run into a racist and things would have gone bad.

The winter before last I had another interaction with a young, white police officer. By that time I was around 69 years old, had an artificial hip, arthritis in my knees, feet and other hip and was moving pretty slowly. I had for the previous seventeen years tolerated the ridiculous snow ploughing by Woolwich employees that deposited not just snow from the street in front of my house into my double driveway but much worse. The snowplough operator would drop his blade onto Church St. a hundred metres or more ahead of my home on Carriage Hill Dr. He/she would then pick up the snow on Church St., come around the corner on Carriage Hill, continuing to fill his blade to the maximum and then hit the end of my double drive where it was all pushed into the approach to my driveway. The result even with a moderate snowfall was from two to four feet high by twenty feet long.

I had been shovelling the first batch of such a deposit when the plough came around the corner with his second batch. That was it. I stood my ground and refused to move. The plough stopped. I indicated that he could lift his blade and turn away from the curb and go around me. No response. I walked to his side window and indicated for him to roll it down. No go. O.K. I thought I'll just keep shovelling right here until he decides to go around me. Instead he used his radio to call for help. Eventually the police officer showed up. Now I'm not stupid. As the officer approached me on foot I was holding not a wide, plastic snow shovel but a steel bladed, narrow soil and gravel shovel which quite frankly would make an awesome weapon. That shovel was necessary in order to be able to dig into the already heavy, packed snow in the approach at the bottom of my driveway. The officer of course had likely a billy, a gun, maybe pepper spray etc. I was prepared to go to court over this issue but certainly not to physically harm anyone. Hence before the officer got to me I turned and buried the blade of the shovel into the very high snowbank behind me. As I said I'm not stupid and certainly wasn't going to give the officer the slightest impression that I had a weapon in my hands.

I opened the conversation by insisting that he was going to have to ticket me or charge me with something because I was fed up with the snowshovelling situation and wasn't going to voluntarily move from stopping the snowplough emptying its load into my drive. At that point the officer being much younger, larger and armed could likely easily have physically removed me. He chose not to and attempted to deescalate the situation. He was so calm and reasonable that at one point I accused him of being too reasonable and rational making it difficult for me to stay angry. He only smiled. Eventually a compromise was reached that included assistance from him after the plough did its' dirty deed. Since then the plough operators have actually taken an extra two or three minutes to put most of the snow onto the boulevard before my driveway saving me shovelling the bulk of it.

So this interaction occurred when I was much older but just as white. Would every single Waterloo Regional police officer have handled it as well? I doubt it. Would every single Waterloo Regional police officer have handled it as well if I had been Black? I doubt it even more. So without intellectualizing the situation beforehand was I counting on my white privilege or was I just like Mayor Armstrong, blissfully naive?

1 comment:

  1. Where you are so different from most officials is that you know who works for whom !