Racial profiling by the Toronto Police Service is a recognized problem in need of an effective solution. I am very disappointed that what appeared to be progress, in the Board’s 2014 policy, has failed to materialize.
The long road to reform has led us to the release of the Board’s revised Policy and Service’s Procedure on Community Engagements. The new Policy and Procedure have been described as a “landmark in advancing bias-free policing.” In fact, they are a step backwards.
The goal of the revised Policy and Procedure – to eliminate discrimination from Community Engagements1 – will not be realized without significant changes. To prevent racial profiling, the Policy and Procedure must:
- Guide and limit officer discretion to stop and question people
- Require that officers tell the people they stop about their right to leave and not answer questions, as much as possible in the circumstances
- Demonstrate effective monitoring and accountability including race-based data collection to identify racial bias
- Provide transparency through receipts; and
- Immediately purge carding intelligence data, already collected, that lacks a
Unfortunately, the current Policy and Procedure fail to do so in their current form.
Officer discretion to stop and question people
Despite our calls for tighter limits and better guidance, officer discretion to initiate and record Community Engagements remains broad. The previous Board policy better clarified a “public safety purpose,” requiring police to have a strong justification for stopping and questioning people.2 The new Policy and Procedure do not. They must explicitly ban arbitrary stops. They must provide adequate detail and guidance, as the old Board policy did.
We’re right back to where we started – where simply being Black may be enough to justify being stopped. The revised Policy states that race will not be a factor in deciding whether to “initiate a Community Engagement” – but it would allow any Black man in the City of Toronto to be stopped and questioned when a suspect is described as “Black” and “male.”
Many Black and other racialized and Indigenous people in this city don’t feel safe to assert their right to not answer questions or to walk away from Community Engagements with officers.
The pro-active rights-based approach of the Board’s former policy must be restored. The new Procedure acknowledges the rights of an individual not to participate and suggests open communication about the reason for the Community Engagement as “key elements for consideration” in “most interactions.” But that is not enough. Community members must be told as much as possible in the circumstances about
their right to leave and not answer questions.
Monitoring and accountability
The Board’s Policy requires that data be collected on Community Engagements to “evaluate the effectiveness of police services in Toronto.” However, it provides no other purpose for data collection. The new Policy and Procedure do not require the collection of race-based data to monitor for racial bias. It is essential that this requirement is included.
To prevent racial profiling, race-based data must be collected on all Community Engagements, whether or not a Community Engagement Report3 is created. The purpose is not to gather intelligence, but to identify, monitor and remove patterns of behaviour that may be racial profiling. Clear disciplinary consequences are necessary
in the Policy and/or Procedure, up to and including dismissal, when officer behaviour is consistent with racial profiling.
The direction in the Board’s former Policy that the Chief establish procedures to ensure that “Service members complete and offer a receipt to the subject of the Contact identifying the Service member by name and badge number and reason for the Contact, at a minimum” has been removed. Instead, the Chief is now required to establish
procedures that “equip service members with business cards.” Although the Procedure says that a business card may be offered it does not require it and it does not include documentation of the reason for the Community Engagement. The Board’s direction on receipts in its former policy should be restored.
There is a gross over-representation of African Canadians who were issued contact cards under the category of “general investigation” since 2008. These contacts were not the result of a specific traffic violation, criminal investigation or suspect description and are not addressed by the Policy and Procedure. They lack a credible, non-discriminatory explanation for their retention. The previous policy called for these records to be purged – and we agreed. The new Policy, however, makes no commitment to do so.
The OHRC acknowledges that the Board and the Service have taken some steps to address racial profiling; we recognize the promise of the PACER Report recommendations, and training on intercultural development and fair and impartial policing. But the core of the Board and Service’s efforts to combat racial discrimination when interacting with the public – the Policy and Procedure – will not prevent racial profiling; the unacceptable status quo will remain.
We strongly urge that the Board and Service effectively address racial discrimination now. The quality of life of Black and other racialized and Indigenous people in this city depend on it.
1 Toronto Police Services Board Policy on Community Engagements (March 27, 2015) at p. 3
The Board’s Policy defines “Community Engagements” as “non-detention, non-arrest interactions between Service and community members that involve the eliciting and/or recording of personal information.” The Policy states that it is “not intended to prohibit or guide informal greetings or conversations.”
2 Toronto Police Services Board Policy on Community Contacts (April 24, 2014) at p. 3-4
The Board’s former policy stated the following:
4(a) Valid public safety purposes justifying the initiation or recording of Contacts are:
- Investigating a specific offence or series of offences;
- Preventing a specific offence; and
- Ensuring the community member who is the subject of the Contact is not at risk.
4(b) Purposes that do not justify the initiation, continuation or recording of Contacts are:
- Gathering personal information for use in unspecified future investigations;
- Investigating an unsupported suspicion;
- Prolonging an interaction in the hope of acquiring the reasonable suspicion necessary
- Meeting a quota or performance target; and
- Raising awareness of police presence in the community.
3 Toronto Police Services Board Policy on Community Engagements (March 27, 2015) at p. 3
The Board’s Policy defines “Community Engagement Reports” as “investigative records of information that will be generated by some Community Engagements.”