Black Hamil­to­nian tells of traf­fic stop stress

Pulled over in Ancaster and now in the Mar­itimes: It’s ‘the skin tone,’ he says

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TEVIAH MORO

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.”

Louizan­dre Dauphin

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