Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 132, August 31, 2021.

August 31st 2021

In this issue
1. The improbable and impossible next police chief
2. OHRC report on addressing systemic racism

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 131, August 31, 2021.
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC), a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
In this issue
1. The improbable and impossible next police chief
2. OHRC report on addressing systemic racism
3. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. The improbable and impossible next police chief
The report for the Toronto Police Service Board on consultations with the public on the qualities needed for a new police chief was released in mid-August. The report was prepared by Environics, after holding sessions with almost 900 individuals. See https://www.tpsb.ca/component/jdownloads/send/30-community-engagements/698-chief-selection-public-consultation-environics-final-report?auid=127
Six qualities expected of a new chief were summarized from the consultations: committed to communities; accountable leader; courageous system changer; transparent communicator; skilled collaborator; anti-discrimination and inclusion focus.
Quotes from the report are telling. The report notes what those consulted thought of the present Toronto police service:
`Frequent references included: “racism” and “untrustworthy,” as well as perceptions of a ‘gang mentality’ among Toronto police services members. Stakeholders often used words aimed at the Service as an institution, using descriptors such as “colonial,” “insensitive to culture,” “militaristic” and “rooted in racism”…
`On a more optimistic note, some participants mentioned words like “trying” or “changing” in recognition of efforts by the Toronto police service. Service Members were more likely to use words like “in transition” and “complex…”
`At some point in all the consultations, stakeholders referred to a perceived persistent lack of trust in the service. For some community members (especially in Black and Indigenous communities), this lack of trust is tied to their lived experiences of racism and discrimination when dealing with the Service, including perceptions of over-policing and the criminalization of certain behaviours. Others felt that trust has been eroded through a perceived neglect of certain communities and lack of authentic engagement.
`Looking to the future, consultation participants offered hopeful words to describe the TPS in five years, including: “inclusive,” “community- focused,” “accountable” and “transparent”. Words offered by stakeholders during this exercise were often linked to the idea of a new Chief/leader who would bring about significant positive change in the Service. Other hopeful references to a future TPS included a Service that can be described as “fair,” “diverse,” “respected,” and “responsive.” TPS members offered future-facing words such as “inclusive,” “transparency,” “world-class” and “innovative”. ‘
It is fair to say that the attempts by the Board to change the Toronto police with its various big endeavours to address problems – in 2016, The Way Forward : Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto (see Bulletin No. 98, June 29, 2016); the 81 recommendations made a year ago in response to the murder of George Floyd (see Bulletin No. 125, September 23, 2020) – have had little positive impact on how the police go about their work.

More challenging is finding someone who has the qualities people want in a new chief. Those outlined in the Environics report are not compatible with police culture which involves secrecy, violence, reluctance to change, racism and sexism. It is unlikely that anyone within the policing community will meet these expressed qualities.

What is missing in the hunt for a new chief is any agenda for change which the Board thinks is desirable, such an effective system of discipline, the implementation of pre-charge screening, the change in hiring practices, the need for outside managers to be brought in. The Board has no publicly expressed ideas of how and why the police force should change and what a new chief would be expected to do. Why would a progressive candidate, if there is one, want to apply?

Meanwhile, Chief Ramer, who has been with the Toronto police for more than 40 years, has had his term as interim chief extended to the end of 2022. One expects that following the experience of the last five or six decades, the new chief will probably be appointed from within the Toronto policing community as members of the Toronto police service have made clear is their preference.

2. OHCR report on addressing systemic racism
The new report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, `Framework for change to address systemic racism in policing’, is the third in three years on the topic. Ten changes are proposed. See http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/framework-change-address-systemic-racism-policing

First is the adoption by the Ontario government of pre-charge screening, an issue that TPAC has been proposing for the last five years. OHRC notes that in 2018-19 in Ontario 68 per cent of the charges laid were stayed or withdrawn, indicating `broad patterns of over-charging that result in courts being flooded with low-quality cases that are very unlikely to result in convictions.’ Blacks are charged three to five times more often than white persons.

Second, the province should be clear about defining what is meant by racial profiling, then put in place regulations to stop it occurring. It should also expand and mandate race collection data.

Third, the Use of Force model should be amended to require de-escalation. (One interesting angle not referred to in the report: maybe the first step in de-escalation is to remove much of the hardware carried by police which cause the problems: the gun, the conducted energy weapon, the handcuffs, the billy club, the body camera, the body armour. Officers would be much more likely to deal reasonably with others without being armed with these tools.)

Fourth, non-emergency police responses should be civilianized.

Other recommendations include making police discipline more transparent, and having independent investigations of complaints against the police.

This report seems like a fine place to start in thinking about the tasks a new police chief for Toronto should be required to address. As well, since it seems unlikely the current government of Premier Ford will agree to any of these changes – that government has ignored previous OHRC reports - it should become a policy platform of the Ontario opposition parties as they prepare for the election in June 2022.

3. Subscribe to the Bulletin

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
E-mail: info@tpac.ca