Pan-Am Games Civics Lab

It occurs to me that, with the Pan-Am Games coming up, you have a prime opportunity to do some hands-on learning about Toronto civics and policing. (Those of you who did this lab during the G20 summit are excused. If you are already at risk of police harassment, you are excused. If you've never been stopped by a cop in your life, this exercise will determine 70% of your grade.)

Your assignment: do some things that are completely within your rights and harmless to others.

  1. Dress in lower-middle class drag. Put away the props and costumes of authority: no suits, no loafers. Jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, jackets are all in: things chosen as much for their wearability and anonymity as for their looks. Break them in, if you can; you'll visibly break character if everything is shop new.

  2. Keep quiet. Tell your family where you're going - for safety - but not social media. If you have an assistant, tell him you're going out, but not where you're going. Make it as hard as possible for anyone to connect you to any authority or celebrity your day job gives you.

  3. Get a camera. The more visible, the better; you can rent one from Vistek for a totally achievable number of dollars. Get a strap, too; carrying a camera by hand is tiring.

  4. Go alone.

  5. Take a long, slow stroll along the Pan-Am Games' security perimeter.

You will absolutely be stopped by the police Integrated Security Unit, either through a Toronto officer or an RCMP officer. Remember, you are entirely within your rights to be there, with a camera, walking. (You'll need the camera to put yourself on the radar: if you're white, the police will largely ignore you. Taking pictures is optional, but a lot of fun.)

It's important that you do this without the trappings of authority and without witnesses. Be powerless. Put yourself at the mercy of the police you enabled. Experience an unjustified police stop as someone who has no immediate recourse.

That experience is no fun. It's in turns demeaning, terrifying, embarassing, and disempowering. For some Torontonians, this is a daily event.

Then come back and talk to me about the Toronto Police Service's carding program.