Desmond Cole lays bare the experience of being a black man in Toronto

The officer who had radioed for backup returned and asked us to empty our pockets. As the supervisor watched, the radio officer approached us one at a time, took our change and wallets and inspected them. He was extremely calm, as if he was thoroughly accustomed to this routine. “I’m going to search each of you now to make sure you didn’t miss anything,” he explained. I knew it was my legal right to refuse, but I couldn’t muster the courage to object. The search officer approached me first. “Before I search you, I want you to tell me if I’m going to find anything you shouldn’t have,” he said gravely. “I don’t have anything,” I replied, my legs trembling so violently I thought they’d give out from under me. The officer patted down my pockets, my pant legs, my jacket, my underarms. He then repeated the search with my two friends, asking each of them before touching them if he would find anything. One of my friends spoke up: “I have a weed pipe in my back pocket, but there’s nothing in it.” The officer took the pipe and walked with the supervisor to the car with the officer who had taken our ID. As the policemen huddled for what felt like an hour, my friend apologized. “It’s not your fault,” I replied. I cursed myself for choosing that route rather than staying on Queen Street, where hundreds of people would have been walking. Here, we had no witnesses.

The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black | Desmond Cole | Toronto Life | May 2015