December 13, 2018
Board of Directors
Toronto Police Association
c/o President Mike McCormack
200-2075 Kennedy Rd
Toronto, ON M1T 3V3
Dear Board of Directors:
RE: Inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service
The media forwarded to the OHRC the Toronto Police Association (TPA) video and its statements dated December 10 and 11 that were made to all its members about A Collective Impact, the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) interim report on its inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The TPA website states that the association represents “approximately 8,000 full-time and part-time uniform and civilian members of the Toronto Police Service.”
We are disappointed with the TPA’s response to the OHRC’s findings. In A Collective Impact, we call on the Toronto Police to “acknowledge that the racial disparities and community experiences outlined in this Interim Report raise serious concerns.” The TPA characterizes A Collective Impact as “irresponsible and inflammatory.” The TPA statements and video include several inaccurate and misleading statements, which should be corrected.
The TPA states that: “The foundation of the OHRC report is census population data and fails to consider the context of police interactions and other crucial variables” and “this misrepresentation of data in the report and the absence of context, undermine the work of our members in the community.”
In fact, A Collective Impact considers a variety of contextual factors in relation to Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigations of incidents that result in alleged sexual assault, serious injury, or death to civilians. For example, A Collective Impact considers whether civilians had a criminal record, and SIU determinations as to whether civilians were:
- armed, including with a gun or knife;
- experiencing a “mental health issue”; or
- resisting arrest or threatening or attacking police.
The interim report also notes that as a next step “the OHRC intends to further analyze the SIU data.” Dr. Scot Wortley’s independent expert report further states that his final report “will explore how other factors—civilian age, civilian social class, geographic location of police encounters, reactive and proactive policing practices etc.—may help explain racial disparities in SIU use of force cases.” A Collective Impact goes on to marry the quantitative data with qualitative information such as findings from SIU Director’s reports, case law and the OHRC’s engagement with Black communities.
The TPA also states that it is “deeply concerned that Dr. Scot Wortley, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s Centre of Criminology and Sociological Studies was retained by the OHRC to analyze the SIU data, when he has been criticized in the past by his peers, for similar studies using the same methodology.”
We are confident in Dr. Wortley’s expertise, and the methodology and the findings set out in his independent expert report. As stated in A Collective Impact, Dr. Wortley has been qualified as an expert by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. As you know, Dr. Wortley conducted a substantially similar statistical analysis of SIU data from across Ontario to inform the Ipperwash Inquiry. In his Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, the Honourable Justice Sidney Linden stated:
Scot Wortley and Terry Roswell conducted a statistical study on behalf of the African Canadian Legal Clinic which is a good example of a province-wide data collection project. This study, entitled “Police Use of Force in Ontario: An Examination of Data from the Special Investigations Unit” is an important example of a province-wide policing study, in this case examining the relationship between race and the use of force by police. I commend the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) for their cooperation with this project and hope that they will continue to collect data to provide a better sense of how the police exercise force in this province.
The TPA notes that it “has retained a respected academic to conduct an independent review of the report.” We would be happy to facilitate a meeting between your “respected academic” and Dr. Wortley and the OHRC looks forward to receiving a copy of your review.
The TPA also states that “The OHRC makes allegations of widespread racial profiling and racism by Toronto Police Service officers, whether direct, or by innuendo….” The TPA further indicates that “the release of an interim report, that fails to consider possible reasons for racial disparity in data is reckless, counterproductive and will only deepen the divide between the police and some marginalized communities.”
In A Collective Impact, the OHRC states that it “has serious concerns about racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black people by the TPS in use of force incidents; stops, questioning and searches; and charges.” Based on the totality of quantitative and qualitative information we analyzed, the OHRC further states “these racial differences and concerns call for an explanation by the TPS and TPSB…”
Goals of the inquiry
The TPA contends that the OHRC’s “allegations” are “a personal affront and professionally damaging to each and every Association Member.” You will note that the OHRC did not name any individual officers in A Collective Impact, even when referring to case law where Courts and tribunals found that racial discrimination occurred.
The OHRC’s mandate is focused on systemic discrimination and A Collective Impact specifically states that the goal of the inquiry is to build trust in police:
Building trust between police and the community should be a top priority for everyone, not just Toronto’s Black communities. There is a clear link between public confidence in policing and public safety. People are less likely to cooperate with police investigations and provide testimony in court if they have negative perceptions of police. Without trust, police cannot provide proactive, intelligence-based policing, and this has profound consequences for our justice system. It also has a significant impact on the cost effectiveness of Toronto police services which cost over one billion dollars annually.
In a city where over half the population identifies as “visible minorities,” one of the most effective ways for police to build trust is to respect human rights. Police must hold themselves to the same high standards that we expect of other public institutions. That is the essence of the rule of law. The TPS and Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) must be proactive in fulfilling their obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. They must take steps to both prevent and remedy racial discrimination, particularly when they are on notice that there may be a problem.
At the press conference launching A Collective Impact, I stated: “The Commission recognizes that policing is vital to public safety and that it is challenging and sometimes traumatic. We also know that the Toronto Police are committed to building trust with diverse communities to make us all safer.” These remarks are available on the OHRC’s website.
We know the TPA has an important perspective on these issues. As outlined in the OHRC’s interim report, the next steps in the inquiry contemplate continued engagement with “police leaders, officers, associations and organizations.” We look forward to hearing more from the TPA as part of our inquiry. In the meantime, please feel free to contact my office directly should you have any further concerns.
Finally, as the TPA states in its video that it has “contacted the government to address concerns with the Ontario Human Rights Commission”, we have copied the government on this letter.
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
cc: The Honourable Caroline Mulroney, Attorney General
The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Andrew Pringle, Chair, Toronto Police Services Board
Mark Saunders, Chief, Toronto Police Service