Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Party's Over

A couple of months ago found me back in Toronto for the first time in three years. As I sat on the patio of a downtown bar, enjoying a beer and some nachos and the company of a Japanese lady who had come to visit me, I had time to observe the changes those years had wrought. That the movie theatre now bore the name of a bank sort of leapt out at me; at first I squinted at it, confused. Where's the sign? Ah, but then I saw it: it was now the scotiobank logo, paired in that jarring hybrid way with the latter half of the old sign, as though it had been summarily chopped in two. I'd grown accustomed already to sports stadiums, concert halls and other buildings becoming bank branches, but a theatre?

And why not?

Truth be told, that occupied my attention for but a short while. At street level there was far more to see. It didn't take long for me to realize that there were cops everywhere, decked out in dayglo green vests, patrolling the sidewalks in groups of two and three and ten, riding bikes, mounted on horseback, driving cars. As soon as one group was lost in the crowd another appeared; it seemed for every ten late-night revellers, an officer of the peace had been assigned to keep them in line. Is it always like this? I asked our waiter. Oh, yeah, he replied, there's always a lot of officers downtown on Friday nights. With all the shootings and stabbings recently, they had to up the numbers, y'know?

Doesn't this seem like overkill? I asked.

Well, I know I feel a lot safer, he replied, and went off to another table.

I forebore from mentioning to him that, if one wanted to increase the number of police, an excuse was necessary. Hire some thugs to do some senseless drivebys in the downtown area. Kill some kids, even better if they're adorable little girls. Stoke the public outcry through the media, and get the budget to hire whole fistfuls of cops.

Of course, Torontonians are not inherently violent people. The cops are thus un-necessary. Wandering the clubbing district, they looked not so much alert but bored, their eyes scanning the crowd not because they sensed any danger but simply looking for an excuse to have something to do other than wander.

Years ago, I went on a ridealong with my brother, who was in the Ontario Provincial Police at the time, policing a small town in the North. It was two o'clock in the morning and he was pulling over cars doing 5 km over the speed limit. Only because he was bored, he explained. And his advice? When it's early in the morning and you think you can drive flat out because there's no other cars on the road, well, that's also when the cops are bored.

There's nothing more dangerous to the public peace than bored cops.

So then, this morning, in the back of the Globe and Mail I find that 26 people were arrested in a raid on a downtown club. I won't bother to go into all the disinformation being thrown around in the article (ecstasy being addictive, GHB being a 'date-rape drug'). Several hundred people were detained and searched, and two nearby residences were raided as well, where guns (a pistol and, depending on the article you read, either a machine-gun or a modified assault rifle) were found along with cash.

We're supposed to feel good about this, of course. The police are cleaning up the city, dealing with the Asian gangs, keeping us all safe.

Stop and imagine what it must have been like for the clubbers. Gathered on the dance floor, grooving to the music, drunk and stoned and high and horny. Then the lights slam on, the music stops, there's storm troopers piling in through all the exits shouting orders, waving weapons and grabbing people. There are no innocents; simply being there is probable cause sufficient to have an armed stranger rifle through your wallet or your purse or your pockets.

Try to see it in your head. Smell that? The panic in the air?

That's the real reason all those cops were hired.

The party's over, friends.

1 comment:

the Silverfish said...

Also were would all of the dougnut shops be without them? And lets not forget Timmies.