Policing is a critical part of communities across Ontario – police officers are woven into our neighbourhoods and our daily lives, and are often the first people we see in times of crisis. A person’s experience with police – positive or negative – can affect them in a lasting, personal way. That’s why adding a human rights perspective to policing is so important.
From our work with various police services, including Toronto, the OHRC has learned lessons that would be of benefit to other Ontario police services. We will soon publish a guide police services can use to add a human rights lens to their operations.
In February 2011, we began a joint initiative with the Windsor Police Service, Windsor Police Services Board and Ontario Police College to address policing and human rights issues, and ultimately to prevent discrimination and racism.
All four organizations have agreed to implement a shared Human Rights Project Charter. It is modelled on the project by the Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Police Services Board and the OHRC that ran from 2007 to 2010. The Charter’s main objective is to look at existing policies and programs, and develop strategies that help the Service and the Board address human rights concerns.
It will look at identifying and eliminating discrimination in the services delivered to the public, and in its employment practices, including hiring, transferring, retaining and promoting Police Service members. The three-year project will be led by a working group with representatives from all four organizations. They will identify and review human rights issues, design response plans, develop initiatives and measure and report back publicly on their progress.
In 2003, the OHRC released a report on its inquiry into racial profiling in policing, education and other sectors. Paying the Price: the Human Cost of Racial Profiling caused a flurry of media attention and much-needed discussion on race issues in Ontario.