Toronto Police Board approves reform program to tackle systemic racism

The Board has green-lit 81 recommendations to combat systemic racism in the force
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The Board has green-lit 81 recommendations to remedy systemic racism in the Service.

TORONTO — At 10:30 AM this morning, the Toronto Police Services Board held an online public meeting to discuss three internal reports that proposed initiatives for institutional reform, in the wake of Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death along with countless casualties of police brutality and civilian protests against systemic racism and injustice.

 

The Board has since unanimously approved several recommendations that will facilitate police reform, including permanent anti-racism training; revitalized safety response procedures; and increased budget transparency and public engagement.

Systemic anti-Black racism can only be addressed when the Toronto Police Service is made accountable to Black communities.

ARAP Co-Chair Notisha Massaquoi

The Zoom-hosted Board meeting was live-streamed on YouTube with Mayor John Tory in attendance. The Board reviewed proposals from its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP), co-chaired by Notisha Massaquoi and Uppala Chandrasekera; interim Chief James Ramer; and Chair Jim Hart.

“The recommendations approved by the Board at today’s meeting,” Hart comments in the Board’s media release, “are a concrete demonstration that the perspectives of the public can and must be a part of the way in which we define community safety and deliver policing services in Toronto.”

Mayor Tory echoes Hart’s confidence in the reform program, hailing it as a watershed for the future of the Toronto Police Service and the city alike: “The report approved today represents both the beginning of an agenda of real change and a defining moment—defined as should be the case by the people.”

81 recommendations for reform

After the public phoned in to make statements, Hart expounded a host of suggestions that would rehabilitate the police force with a presentation titled, “Police Reform in Toronto: Systemic Racism, Alternative Crisis Response and Building a New Confidence in Community Safety.”

Hart’s report was written in collaboration with the ARAP and the Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Panel (MHAAP). It outlines, according to the Board, targeted strategies that will address the systemic racism rampant in the police force, a blight that “result[s] in disparate outcomes for racialized communities in their interactions with the Service.”

Screenshot taken from Zoom meeting.

The Board contends that the scheme will enhance police service as well as public confidence in the force.

 

 

“Maintaining excellence also means acknowledging the need to move forward, to evolve, and to progress,” Hart said during today’s meeting. “It’s critical that the board forges the roadmap for the future with a reimagined vision of community safety.”

 

 

He vowed “that community voices are given a forum and are incorporated into our decision-making process in a regular and meaningful way.”

 

 

TPS public-facing dashboard

As written on the Aug. 11 media release, the ARAP urges the Board to implement a framework and “public-facing dashboard” that observes the recommendations made at the Inquest into the Death of Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old Black man who was shot dead by Toronto police back in 2015.

 

To panel co-chair Massaquoi, the Board’s compliance with the ARAP’s framework is paramount to police reform in the city.

 

“Systemic anti-Black racism can only be addressed when the Toronto Police Service is made accountable to Black communities and commits to the wellbeing and survival of black people,” she said.

 

“This accountability does not allow the TPS to ignore years of demands from Black communities for defunding and the many continuums of definitions that concept brings.”

 

“Body-Worn Camera Project”

The Board also discussed a five-year Body-Worn Camera contract recommended by Police Chief Mark Saunders.

 

“The primary objective of utilizing body-worn cameras is officer accountability,” writes the Board. “And maintaining a truthful, integral narrative of police interactions with the public.”

 

The current estimated cost for the technology is $25 million, an expense that Chief Information Officer Colin Stairs says will “pay for itself.”

 

Part of the Board’s Body-Worn Camera Project, Stairs is fervently optimistic about the initiative’s potential to not only ensure police transparency but also modernize protocol.

“I’m delighted to be inheriting this project because of its ability to be transformational in the technology platforms that we have,” he said.

Metropolitan Toronto Police Headquarters, Wikimedia Commons

Addressing human rights concerns

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) was also present to vocalize its input.

Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the OHRC and human rights lawyer, called in to comment on the Board’s inability to collaborate and liaise with the Commission during the gestation of the Police Reform Report.

“Process is as important to justice as outcomes,” she said.

Like many detractors of the Toronto Police Service, Chadha was quick to discern the contradictions in its modus operandi, citing her history of working with the Board.

“Doing it right means starting with the people you want to protect and serve,” she said.

The OHRC has published its written deputation on the Board’s Aug. 11 Police Reform Report, stating that it cannot support its 81 recommendations due to both its “procedural and substantive” failings.

Regarding the report’s procedural shortcomings, the OHRC writes that it did not establish a procedure with both Black communities and the Commission that would encompass legally-binding remedies that eliminate systemic racism within the police force. The report, by contrast, offered “non-binding directions to police staff to consider additional reforms.”

The Police Reform Report was also submitted in haste so the Commission was afforded only one week to review its contents, a blunder that, the ORHC argued, betrays negligence of due process.

The written deputation also identified the substantive downfalls of the Board’s report.

“These gaps relate to investigating and addressing officer misconduct, as well as key policy prescriptions on use of force and laying of charges, among others,” the OHRC writes. “Further, Black communities have clearly and repeatedly called for defunding, decriminalization, and demilitarization.”

Ultimately, the Commission feared that the report was mere “lip service.”

Along with the primary item of today’s meeting agenda, the Board also swore in Lisa Kostakis for a three-year term and delivered a farewell address to former Chief Mark Saunders, who is retiring after 38 years in his post.


Sources

“Board approves comprehensive policing reform package to build new community safety responses, address systemic racism, and improve trust with communities.” Toronto Police Service Board. 18 Aug 2020. https://www.tpsb.ca/mmedia/news-release-archive/listid-2/mailid-205-board-approves-comprehensive-policing-reform-package

“Police Board to hold virtual meeting on August 18, 2020 focused on police reform in Toronto.” Toronto Police Service Board. 11 Aug 2020. https://www.tpsb.ca/mmedia/news-release-archive/listid-2/mailid-204-august-18-virtual-board-meeting

“OHRC written deputation to the Toronto Police Services Board re: Police Reform in Toronto: Systemic Racism, Alternative Community Safety and Crisis Response Models and Building New Confidence in Public Safety.” Ontario Human Rights Commission. http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/ohrc-written-deputation-toronto-police-services-board-re-police-reform-toronto-systemic-racism

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