Black Hamiltonian tells of traffic stop stress
Pulled over in Ancaster and now in the Maritimes: It’s ‘the skin tone,’ he says
It’s happened to Louizandre Dauphin before.
The Hamiltonian was in his 20s when a police officer stopped him while he was driving down the street in his Ancaster-area neighbourhood.
Dauphin, who’s black, says he had to show his identification — proof of where he lived.
“I was only three doors down from my home,” he recalls.
“My presence there was deemed suspicious.” And just last Thursday, déjà vu. Dauphin, now 33, was again driving — this time to his Bathurst, N.B., apartment after spending a couple of evening hours reading near a quiet wharf.
It was just after 7:20 p.m. when an RCMP officer in a cruiser pulled him over.
He hadn’t been speeding.
“I was wondering why I was being pulled over,” says Dauphin over the phone Tuesday from Bathurst, where he’s the city’s director of parks, recreation and tourism.
It turns out — as news reports of his encounter have chronicled across Canada — the Mounties had received calls about a “suspicious vehicle” on the wharf, an RCMP spokesperson said.
But there was no mention of the driver’s ethnicity or race, Const. Derek Black said.
The officer who stopped Dauphin’s white Volkswagen Golf deemed the report unfounded, Black added.
So what fuelled the suspicion in the first place?
“I find it peculiar my presence was a cause for concern and suspicion, and warranted a call to police,” Dauphin says. “That’s the most troubling part of it.” But it’s nothing new — or exclusive to him. In April, Matthew Green, a young black city councillor in Hamilton, was questioned by a police officer while he was standing near a Stinson neighbourhood bus stop in broad daylight.
Green, who described feeling “targeted” and “harassed,” filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director alleging he had been unlawfully carded.
The Hamilton Police Services Board has declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Here, police statistics show 12 per cent of so-called street checks between 2010 and 2014 involved black people.
New provincial regulations have restricted when and how street checks can be used.
Hamilton police have attributed a drop in stops to about 30 a year in 2015 from 2,893 in 2011 to a growing familiarity with people on beats and a drop in crime.
While their respective run-ins with police are different, Green and Dauphin have declined to vilify the officers who stopped them. Dauphin says the officer was professional and courteous.
But both have also suggested the encounters are just the tip of the iceberg.
Dauphin says he’s had other negative experiences with police, as have other visible minorities he knows. “It comes with the territory … it comes with skin tone.”
The notion of a “post-racial society” is “a far cry from the truth,” he adds.
The former Hamilton high school teacher’s traffic stop made headlines just as the police shootings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota spurred protests.
Dauphin calls the ugly outcome of the peaceful Dallas demonstration, where an angry, welltrained shooter killed five police officers and injured nine other people, a “perfect storm” in a state where open-carry is the law.
The U.S. must address its racial issues, but also improve police conduct, protocols, training, community interactions and screening, he says. Canada isn’t “exempt or excluded.”
Rewind to when Dauphin was about 10: In the same neighbourhood where the officer would later pull him over, a child tells him he can’t live there because he’s black.
“What could prompt a child to say something like that?”
Dauphin’s father, Alez, is a Haitian-born anesthesiologist who’s made several trips to help out in his native land.
He credits his mom and dad for making him and his sister aware that some would see them differently because of their skin colour, but not to shrink from their identity.
“My parents made a great effort to instil a pride in who we are.”