Thursday, November 4, 2010

an open letter to the City of Edmonton

Provincial Court of Alberta

Law Courts

1A Sir Winston Churchill Square

Edmonton, AB T5J 0R2

01 November 2010

To whom it may concern,

Included is payment for a ticket I received in the city of Edmonton on October 4th, 2010 for 'failing to cross roadway within a crosswalk'. I accept guilt for this infraction, and as a result, am not contesting the violation. I would, however, like to make a brief comment about the 'policing' strategy that resulted in this situation.

I was given this ticket by peace officer Eric Diaz when I crossed an empty street from the downtown public library to the public square. Officer Diaz was not the only officer in the square that day. At one point, I observed five peace officers in the square giving tickets to everyone who crossed from the public library to the public square. I am aware of the fact that 'J-Walking' is a charge that was created under the auspices of pedestrian security, but these tickets (mine included) were handed out predominantly to people who had crossed the road in a manner that was completely safe, while the section of roadway in question was completely free of moving vehicles. However, my complaint is not with the by-law itself, but with the manner in which it was enforced. As we know, by-laws cannot be enforced upon everyone who violates them, but must be enforced selectively, and it is with this selection process that I believe your Peace Officers are acting in a misguided manner. I believe the group of people that was targeted in this scenario indicates a flawed approach not only to policing, but to urban development in general.

Aside from the fact that ticketing pedestrians seems a curious method of fundraising for a city that has undergone protracted periods of economic boom, mass-targeting people who are travelling from the library to the public square is a curious enforcement strategy that punishes the type of people that modern cities should desire, rather than push away. Further, users of these types of spaces, broadly speaking, tend to be from lower income brackets than street-crossers in other parts of the city. Targeting people with lower incomes is a maddening tactic of law enforcement. Most importantly, however, as cities transform in the 21st century, policing tactics that punish the type of people who would travel from one public space to another - for getting in the way of cars - promises to put your city on the wrong track to the future.

I am a musician and storyteller who travels Canada constantly, spending a fair amount of time in many different Canadian towns and cities. In time, your city would have received significantly more than 57 dollars in direct and indirect revenue from my time spent in Edmonton. However, I find the policing strategy behind this violation so wrong-headed, that this is the last 57 dollars I will spend within city limits. I tell the story of this municipal policing strategy regularly, and my audience members (including those in all parts of Alberta) find it equally curious and appalling.

To be clear, I am not reacting to or angry about my own personal financial loss, but instead, attempting to draw attention to the flaws in the overall policing strategy that I saw being applied for many hours on October 4th, and that I am told is applied fairly often.


David Newberry

CC: Edmonton city council.

now watch some fish and bird!