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When I was much younger I walked home late at night after a chance meeting with John Herbert, the author of FORTUNE AND MEN’S EYES. We had become friends before he had become famous. Some idiot had invited Jack to speak to a convention of World Police Chiefs in Hamilton. When he finished he was grabbed by cops as he left the building. Then he was given a “three month vacation” courtesy of the Hamilton police department. After we talked I headed home.

As I did I bent down to play with a kitten I saw by a store. At that moment a police car passing by stopped. I said to myself, “Sonofabitch, this cat is going to take off. This cop is going to harass me.” It did. He did. I did what lawyers tell us to do. After about twenty minutes I realized I was going to jail. I said to myself, “What are you going to do?” I decided on the truth. I told the cop I had just come from seeing someone who had said cops are pigs and he had a pretty good case for it. I said I had seen a kitten, bent down to play with it and then saw him coming along and had said to myself, “Sonofabitch. This cat’s going to take off. This cop’s going to harass me.” When I finished the cop said, “Now that you have told me the truth I will tell you the truth. I’ve been driving around all night. I saw you walking along. I saw you bend down to play with that kitten. I said to myself, ‘There’s a friendly person. I will stop and talk with him.'” I said, “You like to talk? Let’s talk.”

We chatted. He gave me a lift home.

Over the years I have had many encounters with the police. They are there usually because someone complained though sometimes when I am out posting flyers they stop me. Bertold Brecht, no piker, said, “The man who sees the enemy IS the enemy.”

We don’t have to kiss ass or suck dick to make people friends. We do have to treat them as friends. This I do.

Black Lives Matter rose up because to too many people Black Lives do not matter. If there were not a need for Black Lives Matter they would not exist.

The police are not the problem.

The people who make the laws are the problem.

Police carding should have long ago stopped. It hasn’t because the people who make the laws don’t want it stopped.

Justin Trudeau should not be ordering the police to attack pot shops. I don’t smoke pot. Our courts decided the laws as they exist are out of date with the times. Great, the laws are being changed. While they are being changed the old laws should not be as severely enforced as they now are.

One of my favorite encounters with the police of this city was when I was out posting flyers. Two big cops were behind me. I thought they were going to bust me. Instead they said, “You are doing good work. Keep it up.”

I had a friend I was walking home with late one night when we got stopped by the police. I had the woman he lived with on my shoulders. We were drunk. When the police stopped us he gave them attitude. They shoved him in the back of their car. I realized he was going to get the crap beat out of him. As I moved towards them the woman on my back tensed. She said, “Don’t get involved.” She was studying to be a lawyer. I ignored her. With her on my back I spoke with the police. They let him out of the car. As they drove away his “friend” (still on my back) said, “You ought to be a lawyer.” I’m not. I am also not one to turn my back on friends.

James Gillis filed a bogus complaint against me with the police. He was carrying it around with him to show people. A copy fell out of his pocket on to the street. It was passed on to me.

I called the police. They said, “You can’t have that. Read from it.” I did. They said, “You do.”

Then they helped me deal with him while Joe Cressy, Mike Layton, Kristen Wong-Tam and the rest looked the other way. Them I can’t respect.

The police I can.,

In the 1970s the police raided Rochdale College during one of my screenings there. My audience panicked. I told them to sit down and stay calm.

One person said, “Who gave you the right to tell us what to do?”

I said, “The police are going through this building with their guns drawn. They are terrified by what they have heard, read and seen in the media about this place. Walk out of here and you can get killed.”

At that they sat down.

Then I walked out to the second floor lobby. The moment I did I saw a police officer who dropped to one knee. He aimed his pistol right between my eyes.

I said to him. “I have a room full of people here for a movie. I have asked them to stay in their seats until this is over. Can you please let me know when it will be okay for them to leave.”

By retaining my self control and by making a reasonable request I got his trust.

He said, “Yes.”

I agree that police violence everywhere is out of hand. We are not going to curb violence with violence.

Sammy Yatim ought to be alive. He isn’t.

These are times that have to be changed. Now, more than ever, the police have to respect the least among us.

One day on College Street a police car stopped a street car I had just boarded. They told me, “Get out!” I kept my mouth shut. I got out. They said, “Put your hands on the trunk of that car.” I did. I stayed silent.

Then another police car stopped. One of the people in it said, “He’s not the one. We got him.”

The police thanked me for not making their job more difficult.

Had I reacted differently I could have been killed.

When everyone around is frightened it is important that we remain calm.

Sammy Yatim ought to be alive. He needed help. He did not get it.

–Reg Hartt 2017/05/12.


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