We thank the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) for listening to concerns raised by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and other advocacy and community groups in previous deputations. In particular, we acknowledge that the TPSB has set out a definition of public safety as well as disciplinary measures in the event that the policy is breached.
However, we have concerns about the policy as drafted, including those described below.
Definition of “public safety purpose”
A valid public safety purpose, as set out in clause 4(a) (iv) of the Draft Policy, includes “collecting intelligence relating directly to an identifiable, systemic, criminal problem and pursuant to a service or Division-approved initiative.” If the phrase “identifiable, systemic, criminal problem” means the presence of a high level of crime in a particular neighbourhood, then we’re right back to where we started. If that is sufficient to justify a Contact, then officer discretion may be no more limited by the Draft Policy than it would be without it and the result could be continued profiling of Black males in the community. In that case, the definition of public safety purpose may still permit a practice with a disproportionate impact on African Canadians.
Initiating contacts: data collection for investigative purposes
In the section “initiating contacts: data collection for investigative purposes”, we have two concerns.
5(b) permits grounds such a race, place of origin and age to be considered when they form part of a specific suspect, victim or witness description. As we know from the case-law, a description such as “Black male” is not sufficiently precise to avoid a finding of racial profiling.
5(c) provides that “community members know as much as possible in the circumstances about their right to leave and the reason for the Contact.” The use of the phrase “as much as possible in the circumstances” suggests that community members will not always be provided with any or sufficient information about their right to leave and the reason for the Contact.
Recording contacts: data retention for accountability and transparency purposes
Paragraph 9 states that “data will be collected about Contacts that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of police services in Toronto.” It provides no other purpose for data collection. Data should also be collected to identify, monitor and remove patterns of behaviour that are consistent with racial profiling.
Paragraph 14 sets out the components of training to be provided to Service members. There is no component that explicitly requires training on how to identify and address racial profiling.
Once the TPSB’s Policy is finalized and approved, PACER’s continued work will be important for effective implementation. It will be especially important for PACER to focus on elements relating to:
- a new community engagement procedure that offers a Code and Charter compliant definition and accompanying guidelines for the key term “ensuring public safety” and how it will be operationalized
- a new training package related to this new Procedure and non-biased policing
- monitoring mechanisms and performance management to provide oversight to officer compliance
- the implementation of a program of human rights identifier data collection, including particularly race, in all stop practices, to monitor and ensure that racial and other bias is actually being addressed throughout the system
TPSB approval of the Draft Policy
This Draft Policy is a major step forward. The Board has worked hard to meet the concerns of the community and of the OHRC. You are almost there.
We suggest that you defer your final decision for a short period so that the final changes that we and others are suggesting tonight can be fully considered.
Our common goal is an end to racial profiling. Another few weeks could make a big difference towards achieving that.
We remain ready to assist the Board and look forward to continued work with the Service through the PACER Advisory Committee to put these essential measures in place.