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'Historic moment' as police board approves race-based data collection

A historic first step for one of the largest police forces in Canada as the Toronto Police Services Board unanimously approves the collection of new race-based data.

The policy will see police officers tracking the races of individuals in certain encounters as part of an overall strategy to identify, monitor and eliminate potential systemic racism.

“What it’s going to do is start holding the police accountable in terms of how they’re going to start relating and engaging with communities,” said Notisha Massaquoi, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel that collaborated with the Toronto Police Services Board on the new policy.

Last year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a scathing report on race and policing, calling for race-based data to be collected.

“It’s a very historic moment,” said Ranu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. “This recommendation was made 40 years ago in a report on police violence against the black community and the community has been waitng 40 years for the Board to put forward a policy like this.”

Mayor John Tory says the creation of the policy represents a “huge step forward” in the building up of trust in policing.

“What you will see now is the collection of information, the analysis of that information by an independent civilian body and then identification coming out of that analysis of problems that may or may not exist,” said Tory.

While the move was applauded at the board meeting, there are questions around how this policy will be implemented and criticism that police will not be collecting self-identifying data but rather identifying the race of the person they’re interacting with.

“I’m responsible for all conduct of the Toronto Police Service and I’ll continue to do that and if we do see elements of misconduct, whether it requires a training element or whether it requires a discipline element, then we will deal with that,” said police chief Mark Saunders.

Police hope to launch the new Race-Based Data Collection Strategy in January of 2020.