The Ontario Human Rights Commission says numbers uncovered during an inquiry into Toronto police suggests black city residents are right to be concerned about their interactions with the force’s officers.
The commission is releasing an interim report today that documents findings uncovered part-way through its investigation into racial profiling by the force.
The report says black people are grossly overrepresented in cases where Toronto police use force that results in serious injury or death.
The commission says black people make up only 8.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, but were involved in 70 per cent of fatal police shootings between Jan. 1, 2013 and June 30, 2017.
It says during that time, black people were also disproportionately represented in everything from Toronto police use-of-force investigations, sexual assault complaints filed against city officers, and inappropriate or unjustified searches and charges.
The commission says comparisons to data from a decade earlier shows discrimination toward black residents hasn’t improved over the years and is calling on the force to acknowledge and address the problem.
The report found that a black person was:
- 3.1 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a SIU investigation
- 3.6 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a police use of force case
- 4.9 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a police shooting that resulted in serious civilian injury or death
- 11.3 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a police use of force case that resulted in civilian death
- 19.5 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a police shooting that resulted in civilian death.
Regardless of race, most civilians from 2013 to 2017 who were involved in police use of force cases were unarmed (67%) at the time of their encounter with the TPS.
From 2013-2017, black people were involved in 30.6% of sexual assault investigations, even though they made up 8.8% of the general Toronto population. In other words, black people were 3.48 times more likely to appear in SIU investigations than their presence in the general population would predict.
From 2013-2017, black males were involved in 28.8% of all SIU use of force investigations, even though they represented just 4.1% of the population. In other words, during this period, black males were 7.0 times more likely to appear in a SIU use of force investigation than their presence in the general population would predict.
TPS officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing in over 90% of all SIU investigations across both periods, and investigation outcomes did not vary significantly by race.
The Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Service released this joint statement about the findings:
“The Toronto Police Services Board (the Board) and Toronto Police Service (the Service) have each had an opportunity to review the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Interim Report. We understand that the report’s preliminary findings, as well as its recommendations, require a thoughtful and comprehensive response from us that builds on the hard work we have been doing already to confront issues of systemic bias.
Members of the Toronto Police Service are dedicated, professional and fair. They take pride in their role as officers of the law. They take pride in their service to our city. As Board Chair and Chief, we are equally proud of the courage and commitment shown by the women and men in uniform who work tirelessly to keep our city the best and safest place to be. We also recognize that the job of the police is a hard one.
We recognize that there are those within Toronto’s Black communities who feel that, because of the colour of their skin, the police, including when it comes to use of force, have at times, treated them differently. We understand that this has created a sense of distrust that has lasted generations. We – the Board and the Service – know that only by acknowledging these lived experiences can we continue to work with our community partners to achieve meaningful changes.
The Board and the Service acknowledge that no institution or organization, including the Toronto Police, is immune from overt and implicit bias. We have seen examples of other organizations, which are, by their nature, composed of people, dealing with the same challenges that we face. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a unique obligation is required from those of us who are charged with upholding the law and protecting all of our city’s people. And, while we may be confronting these challenges with resolve today, we are committed to doing even better.
Some may raise questions about the approach, methodology and statistical basis of this report, and it is important that all of these issues be scrutinized to ensure the fullest and fairest analysis and accounting. In the meantime, this interim report offers five recommendations, three of which apply to the Board and the Service. We accept these recommendations, recognizing that one of them will require further study. Specifically, the Board will refer its existing Policy concerning data collection to its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP) – comprised of Board members, community members, experts and Service members – and ask for recommendations to improve the Policy. This work will consider the legitimate concerns surrounding the impact of race-based data collection on interactions between police and members of Toronto’s communities, and look to collect this data in a manner that will strengthen our connection to the communities we serve.
It should also be noted that we did not suddenly arrive upon these issues. We have been working for several years to confront these challenges in a variety of ways and with a variety of partners. Indeed, our continued work will be shaped and informed by a wide number of steps already undertaken and underway.
Finally, we hope that this Interim Report is seen in its broader context, causing bigger questions to be asked and real solutions to be identified. Questions about poverty, social exclusion, inequality in our neighbourhoods and the root causes of crime and violence. Because once the police are involved, it is often after all other systems have failed. This is not to say that this explains even a perceived disproportionate use of force by police; but it does highlight the reality that once the police have been called, the incident is often one of crisis.
Our police service has a specific responsibility that we accept. We will continue to be open to exploring the overall approach to police use of force, as well as critically examining the specific cases where it has been employed. However, in order to find meaningful and lasting remedies, other institutions, organizations and levels of government will need to take this most important mandate on with us. We are ready, willing and actively doing the hard work that is required of us.
There is a fundamental principle that must always guide our thinking and our actions: bias is impossible to deny, but it must never be accepted as inevitable. The Board and the Service believe in that principle and it will guide us as we continue to build a city of mutual respect and trust that is safe for all.”
Read the complete report below: