What im­age do po­lice want to pro­ject?

Toronto Star - - CANADA -

Re New cruis­ers a ‘disturbing trend, ‘ crit­ics say, Oct. 31 When speak­ing about the shift in ser­vice ve­hi­cle ap­pear­ance to a more ag­gres­sive or men­ac­ing scheme, Const. Ri­ley Babott states: “I can’t iden­tify with this feel­ing be­cause I don’t find inan­i­mate ob­jects or colours to be ca­pa­ble (of ) be­ing ag­gres­sive . . . It is a very iden­ti­fi­able look for po­lice ve­hi­cles dat­ing back many decades and used through­out the world.”

Cu­ri­ously enough, a very sim­i­lar logic was used to de­cide which firearms were to go on the re­stricted and pro­hib­ited list. Many of the afore­men­tioned firearms were cat­e­go­rized so, sim­ply be­cause of the way they looked — i.e. ag­gres­sive or scary, and not for any quan­tifi­able rea­son, in terms of their func­tion­al­ity.

It is ev­i­dent that the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what ap­pears threat­en­ing is only a one-way look­ing glass.

The mood and per­cep­tion-al­ter­ing ef­fects of colours has long been well un­der­stood and can be wit­nessed on artists’ can­vasses dat­ing back cen­turies. From the di­a­logue in the ar­ti­cle, it seems that the po­lice are feign­ing ig­no­rance on the is­sue to ap­pease those who want to ap­pear more ag­gres­sive or tac­ti­cal.

I won­der, then, how the po­lice ser­vices of Canada as a whole wish to paint them­selves, in­ten­tion­ally or not, on to the can­vas of the Cana­dian land­scape — friendly reg­u­la­tors or grim en­forcers? Tom Whent, Sault Ste. Marie Chang­ing the colour of Toronto’s po­lice cruis­ers from white to grey was “a de­ci­sion he ad­mits he made with­out a lot of thought or con­sul­ta­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Toronto po­lice Chief Mark Saun­ders. Given the his­tory of heated de­bate and con­cern over past changes, Saun­ders has dropped the ball, as the say­ing goes.

The switch to yel­low cars was hotly de­bated but ul­ti­mately was taken in the name of vis­i­bil­ity, vis­i­bil­ity for ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit in be­ing able to iden­tify po­lice ve­hi­cles quickly whether needed for po­lice pres­ence or to get out of the way in case of emer­gency.

The dis­con­tin­u­ance of the yel­low was also hotly de­bated but pre­vailed with as­sur­ances that white met the same cri­te­ria and did not share a colour with school buses and some taxis. Now we have the most re­cent colour change, to drab, in­nocu­ous and non­de­script grey.

Neg­a­tive com­ments have been made about the grey colour, the most disturbing be­ing the sim­i­lar­ity to mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles. The mil­i­tary does not want their ve­hi­cles to at­tract at­ten­tion; quite the op­po­site. Po­lice ve­hi­cles for uni­formed of­fi­cers should at­tract the no­tice of the pub­lic. Grey is a ter­ri­ble choice and the de­ci­sion should be re­scinded. David Kis­ter, Toronto

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