TORONTO: A war of words has erupted between Toronto police and a broadcast journalist who claims she was pulled over because she is black.
Marci Ien, a co-host for CTV’s “The Social,” wrote an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail this week alleging racism played a role in her recent traffic stop outside her home.
“For the third time in eight months, I was being questioned by a police officer _ and I had broken no law,” Ien wrote in the piece published on Monday. “If you are black in Canada, you are subject to a different standard and, often, seemingly, different laws.”
Senior Toronto police officers have since taken to social media to dispute her version of events, saying video shows Ien failed to stop at a stop sign and that her race wasn’t visible until after the officer pulled her over.
“I have viewed the video footage of your vehicle stop. You were stopped because of your driving behaviour,” Staff Supt. Mario Di Tommaso wrote on Twitter. “It was dark. Your race was not visible on the video and only became apparent when you stepped out of the vehicle in your driveway.”
Di Tommaso was backed up by Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon.
“We are accountable,” she wrote on Twitter. “The whole event (incl. the traffic infraction) is on camera. The ethnicity of the driver is not visible until after she was pulled over, when she exits the car.”
Ien did not immediately respond to requests for comment on what police have said about the incident.
In her opinion piece she said she had just driven into her driveway after dropping off her daughter at her sister’s house when a police cruiser, with its lights flashing, pulled in behind her.
She said she got out and was yelled at by the officer to return to her car and was later given a warning, not a ticket, by the officer.
“I was at home. My safe place. And I was scared,” she wrote.
She said she told the officer: “How do I explain this to my kids? I teach them to be respectful, fair and kind, but I’m not feeling respected, served or protected right now.”
Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the force stands by their senior officers’ tweets.
“Ms. Ien has made some very serious allegations and we would encourage her to file a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director,” Pugash said, adding that Chief Mark Saunders has also invited Ien to watch the police video and read a transcript of an audio recording of the incident.