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Black people ‘grossly overrepresented,’ more likely to be hurt or killed by Toronto police, racial profiling report finds


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A detailed analysis of never-before-seen police watchdog data has found Black people are “grossly overrepresented” in cases in which Toronto police have used force, especially when it comes to fatal shootings.


But while members of the city’s Black communities welcomed the extensive data analysis, which was released by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Monday, many said the findings told a well-known story.


“This reality has long been documented — these are not, in fact, new times,” said Sam Tecle, a community leader with the youth organization Success Beyond Limits, which is based in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. “The reality is that young people, their parents, their elders and residents face an increased amount of policing, and what many in the community would call over-policing.”


“This is an every day experience. This is not new,” said Valerie Steele, a community activist and member of the Black Action Defence Committee.


In an interim report released on Human Rights Day, the OHRC revealed the initial findings of its inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination within the Toronto Police Service, which it launched late last year following a spate of high-profile incidents including the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill Black man.


The ongoing examination is enabled in part through the commission’s powers to compel data from the Toronto police, its civilian board and Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The report involved a review of more than 430 investigations conducted since 2000 into Toronto police officers that have been launched by the SIU, which probes incidents involving police that result in death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.


Among the documents reviewed by the OHRC were the SIU director’s reports, which contain detailed information about individual cases but “which have never before been released to the public,” chief commissioner Renu Mandhane told a news conference Monday.


An interim analysis by University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley reviewed two sets of data, from 2000 to 2006 (187 cases) and 2013 to 2017 (244 cases). The review provided a “disturbing” glimpse into the disproportionate impact of police use of force on Toronto’s Black community, Mandhane said — one that she said must be acknowledged and acted upon.


The review includes the finding that between 2013 and 2017, a Black person was nearly 20 times more likely than a white person to be fatally shot by police in Toronto, representing seven of the 10 fatal shootings by police in that period.


And while Black people made up just 8.8 per cent of the population in 2016, from 2013 to 2017 they were involved in 25.4 per cent of SIU investigations, 36 per cent of police shootings and 70 per cent of police shootings that resulted in civilian death.


“The interim report findings goes some way toward explaining why trust between the TPS and Black communities remains fractured, despite decades of protests, reports, recommendations and commitments related to anti-Black racism,” reads the report.


Mandhane called upon various levels of governments to act, including asking Toronto police and its civilian board to “acknowledge that the racial disparities and community experiences outlined ... raise serious concerns.”


Shortly after, Toronto police and the Toronto Police Services Board released a joint statement, saying they would act on the reports’ recommendations and that they “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.”


Noting that “some may raise questions about the approach, methodology and statistical basis of this report,” the statement went on to say that the issues raised in the report should be “scrutinized to ensure the fullest and fairest analysis and accounting.”


The commission also called upon Ontario’s provincial government to implement recommendations from a recent, sweeping report on police oversight by Justice Michael Tulloch. That report recommended far greater transparency from the province’s police watchdogs, mandatory collection of race-based data and greater powers to charge police officers.


The previous Liberal government drafted legislation acting on many of Tulloch’s recommendations but Premier Doug Ford pressed the brakes on its implementation one day before it was scheduled to come into effect. Ford has said his government would like to do further consultation.


A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General told the Star in an email Monday that “the ministry has received the OHRC’s interim report and is currently reviewing it.”


Hewitt Loague, president of the Black Action Defense Committee, said many of the findings of past reports are “sitting on the shelf, and nothing has been done.” He said he hopes the Ford government will really consider implementing the strengthened police oversight laws.


“And the police services board, they have a lot of control over what is happening and they should really step up the game and make sure that there are changes,” Loague said. “The Black community has been suffering for so long.”


Alok Mukherjee, a past chair of the Toronto police board, said the ability of the commission to compare two different time periods is important because the “general tendency of the police service and the police board would be that, ‘We are doing implicit bias training,’ and ‘Oh, we are doing this, we’re doing that.’”


To be able to show, said Mukherjee, “that things have not really improved, or changed … you really have to question the efficacy of the measures that you say you have been taking.”


Mukherjee said there is an old saying that what gets measured gets done, and this is one problem where the “police have resisted measuring, whether the scope of the problem or the results, the outcomes.”


The OHRC said it plans to release the final version of its report in 2020, involving further examination of use of force incidents as well as analyzing data on carding, specific charges and arrests, culture, training, policies and more.




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