Matthew Green's police stop wasn't a case of race-based carding, says the Hamilton police union head. And he's "disappointed" that a Hamilton city councillor is using a constable to "further his own political agenda."
'I find it pretty disappointing that a city councillor is going to go down this road and making a public spectacle.' - Clint Twolan, president, Hamilton Police Association
Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, says he's unhappy with the "circus" Green has created in pursuing a complaint against Const. Andrew Pfeifer over a street check.
"I find it pretty disappointing that a city councillor is going down this road and making a public spectacle," he said.
"I find it disappointing that a city councillor would use a venue like this to further his own political agenda. I truly do."
Twolan made the comments Thursday after Pfeifer's first appearance on the Police Services Act charge of discreditable conduct.
The charge stems from an April 26, 2016 incident when Pfeifer questioned Green for several minutes as he waited for the bus.
Green and his lawyer, Toronto civil rights attorney Selwyn Pieters, say he was unfairly questioned as part of a process that has already been proven to unfairly target racial minorities.
Twolan said it was cold and windy that day, and the officer wanted to make sure Green was OK.
"Basically, it was a well-intentioned stop that occurred to check on Coun. Green's well being, and the allegation is that the stop lasted too long," Twolan said.
Green, a frequent critic of street checks, has a different view.
"I know how I felt," said Green, who filed a complaint with Hamilton Police Service after the incident. "I felt targeted. I felt like it was an arbitrary stop."
'In this case, it was clear. This incident occurred during the day. There's no doubt as to who Matthew Green was and what he looked like.' - Selwyn Pieters, Toronto civil rights lawyer
It happened when Green waited for a bus on the corner of Stinson Street and Victoria Avenue South.
It was 4 C and windy that day. Green was wearing a blazer, collared shirt and casual pants, he said then.
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It was around 3 p.m., he said, and he was checking emails on his phone. A Hamilton police officer stopped him and questioned him for several minutes.
Pieters is representing him in the Police Services Act hearing, which began Thursday. The appearance was quick and procedural. Both sides are still sharing disclosure, and will speak via teleconference in late January.
The hearing will include about seven witnesses, Pieters said, and take about a week.
Pieters has handled numerous racial profiling cases, including one of a 14-year-old who Toronto police arrested four times.
The test for racism in such cases is fairly simple, he said.
"Number one, you look at the person's race," he said. "In this case, it was clear. This incident occurred during the day. There's no doubt as to who Matthew Green was and what he looked like.
"Number two, you look at the treatment. How was he treated in his account with police? Number three, you ask yourself if the social context and his race were factors in the negative treatment he experienced. If there's a nexus between his race and the experience, then there's a prima facie case. That's the law."
Twolan said Pfeifer, who has been an officer for about nine years, didn't target Green because of his race, and is anxious to explain why.
"He's been waiting an awful long time to be able to give his side of the story," Twolan said. "His interpretation is, you're going to find, completely different from what you've read and heard to this point."
The case comes in the midst of province-wide changes to the way police do street checks, which critics say unfairly targets racial minorities.
The province has passed new laws meant to clarify rules for interactions between members of the public and officers collecting information. Now individual police services, such as Hamilton's, are drafting their own policies.
The Hamilton Police Services board will discuss local progress at a meeting Thursday afternoon.