Doug Blecher (00:02):
Well, this is an episode between just me and Kelly. We're following up on the interview that we did last time with Matthew Rushin. And a good part of that interview, we were talking about the police. And when I think about the police, I was doing a little bit of research. There's apparently about 900,000 police officers here in the United States, and about 70,000 or so in Canada, I didn't forget about Canada, Kelly. So we're good.
Kelly Bron Johnson (00:41):
Hold on though. Wait, only 70,000.
Doug Blecher (00:44):
That's what Google told me. I don't know if it's accurate
Kelly Bron Johnson (00:48):
For all of Canada. That's amazing. No, are you sure?
Doug Blecher (00:53):
That's what it said. I was wondering if there were like, are they, are they called the police in Canada or are there other names?
Kelly Bron Johnson (01:02):
So we have a few different branches that do kind of different things. So we have municipal police forces, right?
Hold on, I'm going to look this at the same time. And then we have the R C M P, which is a federal run force. Yeah, I was just thinking 70,566 police officers in Canada as a 2022. I'm going to look up how many the R C M P anyway, whatever. So the R C M P is a federal thing that was created. The R C M P was created specifically to kill indigenous people. That was its sole purpose at the time of its inception. It was, it's the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force, and their job was to go in and eliminate all the indigenous people that they were not able to eliminate before through other means, such as the residential schools. So the first task that they had actually was to go up north to the Inuit and shoot all of their sled dogs.
Sled dogs were their form of transportation and their livelihood that not only just transportation, but also for them to be able to go out and hunt. It was how they got around, how they went and hunted and all that. So one day our R C M P went up to different, they went up to each village and they shot all the dogs one by one and left them there for the people to find them. So this has long-term effects in terms of people starved, people starved. They could not hunt, they couldn't go out. The men had no clue what to do with themselves because suddenly their livelihood and everything was taken away from them. In the blink of an eye, the R C M P were also responsible for going up. They would take planes and they would come fly into the village in the morning. They would round up as many children as they could, as quickly as they could into the plane, and then fly them down south to go to a residential school.
So they basically went and stole them. Sometimes they were adopted to other people, sometimes they were actually sent out and adopted in the US. So it became a way to make money as well by stealing these children and bringing them to different places. And then in Quebec, we have the SQ, Surete du Quebec. They're not the police, I can tell you that. They're an independent. So sometimes the Surete du Quebec, they go and they actually check to see what the police have done. They're independent in terms of from the police forces. They have different jurisdiction. So it's interesting because in Montreal we have both where the SQ is responsible for our highways and roadways, but the police is responsible for everything else that goes on. So there are going to be times when you're driving down a main otter route in Montreal and all of a sudden it ain't the police that's going to stop you.
It's the SQ, which is to me much more intimidating and more scary. So I've been stopped by the SQ, but I've also used the SQ to help me apprehend somebody that had done a hit and run on me. So all that to say, yeah, we've got different forces in force, but to me the number just seems so low. I'm actually going to look and see how many Toronto police there are, because the GTA is a huge force. This only, oh, look at that. Only 7,600 full-time and part-time uniform and civilian members in the Toronto Police Force. That's fascinating. Okay, now that I've done my little thing about Canadian polices,
Doug Blecher (04:26):
Well, it was interesting learning, like you talking about the origins of, because in the police in the United States, the origins as far as I'm aware, kind of go back to slavery. So kind of when you learn about those things, and just even taking it to modern day and as an autistic person makes me think about, are the police there to serve and protect autistic people? Because you hear about, oh, there to protect and serve. So what would be your answer to that question? Are the police there to protect and serve autistic people?
Kelly Bron Johnson (05:15):
Are they there to serve anybody though, if we talk about what their inception, what their purpose was for Actually, I decided to look up the motto of the Montreal Police Force just to see, because it's not serve and protect, I know it's not serve and protect. So their motto is actually Une équipe engagée, it's a committed team. So they don't give a shit about anybody else. They're a committed team to each other. That's what it says. So I mean, it doesn't say anything about society or protected anybody. It says a committed team. So what are they committed to? I don't know. They're committed to stopping people and randomly harassing people.
Doug Blecher (05:58):
Well, here in Cleveland, the motto is to protect and serve. But that's all they say. To protect and serve who?
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:05):
Themselves. Yeah. Sorry, I want to look up now I'm curious. Now I'm going to look at the Toronto police motto. Oh, they say to serve and protect. Okay, sure, sure. Oh, they say our services committed to being a world leader in policing through excellence, innovation, continuous learning, quality, leadership and management.
Doug Blecher (06:32):
That's a lot of fancy words.
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:35):
Just this needs to go back and say, what is their purpose? Are they actually serving anyone, let alone autistic people? But we know that their creation was not meant to serve anybody or to be committed to anybody other than themselves. And so just so people that are clear, I'm pretty much an abolitionist when it comes to prisons. I don't think that we need prisons. I think there is probably about 1% of the population that is so irredeemable and rehabilitative and so troubles that they need to be incarcerated or they need to be kept away from the public for the rest of their lives because they are so whatever. They're so severe in their case that they're not able to rehabilitate. But that's like 1%. We don't need the numbers. We don't need a whole prison industrial complex in order to do that. We're housing people, not even housing people.
We're kind of torturing people, isolating people, making things worse for people sometimes for things for when they've made a simple mistake and now it is stuck with them for the rest of their lives. And times when there is overpolicing they get stuck in a cycle of that as well, because it's kind of like once you get one, once they know you, ah, here's the ease target. And a lot of the times it's people who are disabled. We know that there's an overrepresentation of disabled people in prison, especially people with learning disabilities, the high population of dyslexic people in prison. And that is not a criminal issue. They've gone to crime or they've made mistakes because of other issues, because they've been left out of the education system because they've been isolated from society, because they've been bullied and harassed for their disabilities. They have not been given adequate education.
And so they've turned to whatever they can to survive, which isn't always right, but it's a matter of their circumstances. So yeah, once it starts, it just takes somebody to kind of brand you to profile you, and that's it. And then what else do you do? So again, not making excuses for things, but kind of just putting it in context of why these things happen and why it keeps happening over and over again. And then just getting worse. I'm actually in training to be a gladue writer. I don't know if I spoke about that before.
Doug Blecher (09:05):
I don't remember that you talking about that.
Kelly Bron Johnson (09:08):
So a gladue report is a court report that is a part of Canada's truth and reconciliation. I think it came in a bit before that though. But it's a report that is written only for indigenous people who are going through the court system. And it's to put into context the effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma on them. And that got them to that point. And then for them to make a plan, an alternative to prison, because we know that prison doesn't work over and over and over again. We keep putting these people in prison over and over and over again for absolutely ridiculous things. Just, I mean, I'm reading the cases now. I'm going to be working with clients and going into the prisons and talking with them.
That's another issue of our overpopulation when it comes to talking about overpopulation in prisons. Our indigenous people are the most overrepresented in prisons. No clue what the numbers of indigenous disabled are, but that's I'm sure another aspect of it. But then it's blacks and then it's disabled in our prison population. So we know that the prisons aren't working. Well, look, we're just talking about the purpose. It's working to keep people in jobs. It's working to keep the industrial complex going. It's not working for the people in society. How about that? And so I think the police are just an extension of that where they're not. They're doing their job and they're serving in their feeding into the prison industrial complex, but they're not serving community and society.
Doug Blecher (10:53):
And the people that I've known that have been in prison, there's not necessarily any type of rehabilitation happening there. . There doesn't seem to be any mental health support that they're seeing in their time there. And they're there longer than they probably should be for sure. These sentences are ridiculous. So when they exit their time there, it's just kind of open the door and just kind of throw 'em back out into the world.
Kelly Bron Johnson (11:31):
But they're not going back out into the world with a plank slate. That's the other issue too. But let's go back a bit to the, we're talking about services and things that are offered. I know. So in Canada, there's a little bit of a distinction. In Canada, our prison system is supposed to, it was apparently created and it's supposed to rehabilitate. That is the concept. It's supposed to be rehabilitation. That's it. The courts are still set up in a punishment sort of way. We always have crime punishment, crime punishment, sentence. We're supposed to be a rehabilitative prison complex. What I have been learning it seems is that if you're in a federal penitentiary, you might have more services offered than in a provincial one. And it also depends on if you're in a major city or if you're in the middle of the forest somewhere, you're going to get what you get.
And that's part, when I talked about Gladue reports, we take part of that into context too, where they said, okay, well this person has spent, let's say a total of three years in prison, in and out, in and out, in and out. What happened in prison that was helpful for them and what happened that wasn't helpful? Sometimes they come out with new skills, but those new skills are just how to survive in prison better. They're not how to learn a trade or how to read. I really think that we need to focus on education because a lot of the people are there because they've been so lost, because they've been lost in the education system. They have been failed by society in that aspect. And that we know that when people are in prison and they are able to get their G E D or they're able to get a diploma, they're able to get a certificate, they don't come back.
Education is the answer for 80% of people to stop them from going back into prison. So give them a purpose, give them education, teach 'em to read really basic things. To me, that's what the prison system should be doing. If we're going to say that we're honestly talking about rehabilitation, and then yes, we need to be offering things like drug rehab, we need to alcohol programs, we need to look at harm reduction techniques and things like that. We need to make sure they have something to go out to when they come out. Because if you go back out into the same thing you were in just a minute ago, you're going to get in the same trouble. And we as a society have a huge problem where we restrict people from where they can live, where they can work, and then the discrimination keeps piling on.
What do you expect somebody to do when they come out of prison and they can't get an apartment, they can't get a job, so what are they supposed to do? And we hold this against them for like 10, 20 years forever. Sometimes your credit's messed up because the last place you were paying, obviously when you went into prison or you went into jail, you couldn't pay your rent, so you got evicted from there. Now that's on your credit report. And then you have this big gap. You go to try and get a job, and they're like, well, did something happen? And like, oh my gosh. It's just ridiculous. And the amount of people who won't even give anybody a chance, and it doesn't even matter what the crime is. Sorry, it's my rant.
Doug Blecher (14:42):
I love your rants. So what about defunding the police? I think when people hear that they don't understand what defunding the police actually is. Where do you stand on that?
Kelly Bron Johnson (14:56):
Yeah, I could use another parallel. We're talking about land back too, and people don't understand what land back is. So let's do a little bit of both. Why not? We're talking about defunding the police. So recently, the last couple months, I met with the chief of police here in Montreal. And I had a really good conversation with him, and I like him as a person, and I like some of the things that he's trying to do, but I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if it's going to work. And he asked me point blank, he's like, why don't you trust the police? And I'm like, because y'all are going out and randomly tasering autistic people when they're out in the street and things like that and your racial profiling, and it's going to take time to change things. But listening to his side and the circles that he's having on his side as a police chief, the numbers of police have gone down drastically, especially during the pandemic.
People are leaving the force in record numbers. For whatever reason, they're taking huge, long sick leaves. And so right now he's down in his numbers in terms of how many people he should technically have working for him and being able to do the job. So it's kind of like our healthcare system and our nurses and doctors who we don't have enough of them and everybody's overworked. So now we have a problem where we have all our police wandering around the streets trying to do their job, overworked, traumatized, because these people don't receive enough trauma training or enough trauma therapy for what they're doing and the high stress that they're experiencing. And I need to acknowledge that as well. Everybody's traumatized in these interventions. Let's just put it that way too. When you are apprehending somebody else, it traumatizes you as well. It's collateral damage. And so yes, policing is hard, and they need support as well. So now they're in a case where they are overworked. I don't think they're underpaid. I know that the Montreal Police Force is one of the lowest paid police forces in Canada. But anyway, they're overworked and it's a high stress situation. And then we expect them to make good judgements. And that's a scary thought because it's not like their judgment was great before.
Now we've got these overworked, stressed out, tired people running around, apparently supposed to fight crime and take care of us. I don't think it's working, but I don't necessarily think the answer is add more police. I think the answer is add in more supports of people that can take care of some of the smaller issues. When you have a noise complaint, having a party next door, you don't need to send six squad cars. And that's often what happens, right? There'll be 1, 2, 3, we come all at once and send up on this house. That to me is totally unnecessary. But I'm not a police officer, whatever. Maybe somebody can tell me the rationale for that. But there are many cases when we have certain house calls that you do not need. You don't need to show up with a gun. You do not need to show up with a gun when you're having a mental health crisis if you're, and the police aren't trained to do this. So we need to be sending in social workers. We need to be sending in some sort of other interventionists and put the money there.
Doug Blecher (18:17):
And that's part of what defunding the police really is about.
Kelly Bron Johnson (18:21):
And we need to fund, if we would prevent all of this in the first place of having people having meltdowns and mental health crisises that require intervention. If we funded our psychological support services in communities, when we eliminate houselessness, that solves a huge problem in mental health. So if we put the money into getting people housing, we put the money into having people fed really basic things. We eliminate so much of the crime, the crime, the so-called crime that goes along with those issues. And when see, in Canada, yes, we have Medicare. It's free to go to the hospital. If I go break my leg, I can take an ambulance, I can go to the hospital. It's not going to cost me anything. Fantastic. But we have no mental health support that's free. You have to be in crisis. If you want to see an emergency psychologist or a psychiatrist, you are in crisis.
It's too late at that point. We need something before that. We need some sort of low cost or free mental health care before that and mental health supports that come before that. And we would eliminate a lot of the issues that police are having to go run around and put out fires for so to speak. That is not high crime. That's not where the crime is. That's not where people are. I was going to say that's not where people's lives are at stake. But no, people's lives are at stake when we're all having mental health issues. We're not a healthy society.
Doug Blecher (19:52):
And there's just a lack of education as well for the police in terms of our community being autistic in terms of how to interact with us. They might have a random training here or there by someone in their community, but it, it's not very extensive training. So it just doesn't make sense why they would be the ones to show up in those situations.
Kelly Bron Johnson (20:23):
So I've actually created and trained some of these forces. I've taken part in a program where I was an actor in the video to do reenactments for them. It was all led by autistic people. And I know that for a fact that one of my autistic friends actually gave the training in Laval. She did the Laval Police Force because of an article I'm writing actually for the Resolve about police intervention and autistic people, which I haven't finished yet. Just to go back to that, the Resolve is an independent black led magazine, online magazine here in Canada. So keep an eye out for that. When that article's out, I'll let you know. But yeah, I did actually ask the city of Laval because I helped with that training and helped create that training. My son and I actually helped teach these people first responders, how to react to deal with autistic people when you come upon them.
And that was in 2015. And then the city of Laval went and declared itself an autism friendly city. And now I've heard nothing of it. The mayor has changed three times. So I actually wrote an email to the mayor's office and I asked for access to information, and I said, what has happened with this training? It's been eight years. Yeah, eight years now. And I said, is this training still being used? Is it effective? Can you tell me anything about what they think of it? What has changed? Have numbers gone down, gone up, and a ticket has been opened. I am waiting for the response.
Doug Blecher (21:49):
A ticket has been opened.
Kelly Bron Johnson (21:52):
So that's where we're at.
Doug Blecher (21:53):
How long has that ticket been open?
Kelly Bron Johnson (21:56):
It's been open for a couple of weeks now.
And part of it, when my editor was asking me, he's like, do you have solutions? And I'm like, well, I'm trying to come up with solutions. I'm trying to see if the solutions that we have been proposed have worked. Because every time I talk to someone and including the Montreal Police Chief, when I had his conversation, when I had that conversation with him, what about a registry? They're like, oh, let's have a registry. We need to have a registry. And I'm like, why should I put myself or my child on a registry? First of all, just to have basic respect when they're walking down the street. How about leave my kid alone or walking down the street? Just because he sees somebody flapping doesn't mean you need to go and tase them. Okay, how about that? I don't know. You could spend your time doing so many other things like finding real criminals instead of tasing autistic people on the streets, which again has happened three times just last year.
And the issue too, when I brought this up with the police chief, when he said, well, we're talking about this registry. I said, the case of an autistic man in the peel regions, and now this is Peel Police in Ontario, where they apprehended this man, the where they tased him, where they beat him up. And then they brought him in and they said, before they tased him, they said, he seems to be in distress. But nobody looked up the registry and he was on the registry. His father had put him on the registry on purpose in hopes to protect him. So he had done everything right, but when Peel region showed up, Peel region Police showed up and said, he seems to be in distress. Let's tase him rather than, let's look in the registry and see if he's there. So fuck the registry, because what is the point? What is, if you don't use it,
Doug Blecher (23:40):
There is no point. Well, I know we're running out of time right now, but I have a feeling this won't be the last time we'll be talking about the police. Such an important topic. So thanks everyone for listening. Thanks to you, Kelly, and we'll see you next time on Intersections On The Spectrum.