Language selector

Putting human rights in policing

Page controls

Page content

New guide shares our experience

As part of our ongoing work with police across the province, we released a new guide. Human rights and policing: creating and sustaining organizational change aims to encourage and support police services across Ontario in building human rights into all their work.

The guide was inspired by our project charter work with the Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Police Services Board, Ontario Police College and most recently, the Windsor Police Service. Through that work, we have gained valuable insight on how police services can apply human rights principles at all levels of their organization. The Toronto project is currently being evaluated, and results will be available in late 2013.

The guide defines and explains key human rights terms and principles. It includes best practices to help police better serve the needs of Ontario’s increasingly diverse communities by offering inclusive police services and addressing human rights issues before they happen. It also offers advice on how to use a human rights lens in every part of a police service, including internal staffing and training. While the guide refers to experiences from the Toronto Police Service’s human rights work, it also provides direction on how these can be applied in services of all sizes across Ontario.

This guide has received positive feedback from police services across the country. As well, many non-police organizations are using it to help their own change efforts, as the lessons it contains can be applied in areas beyond policing. To meet this need, we are currently drafting a version of the book that focuses on organizations in general, which will be available in late 2012.

Celebrating Year 1 in Windsor

March 2012 was the one-year anniversary of the Human Rights Project charter, a three-year initiative where the OHRC is working with the Windsor Police Service (WPS), the Windsor Police Services Board (WPSB) and the Ontario Police College (OPC).

This three-year initiative involves a joint effort by project partners to identify and address human rights issues. The project will develop initiatives to prevent and eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination in the employment policies and the delivery of policing services by the Windsor Police Service. Project goals include:

  • Improving community representation in the WPS, expanding recruitment outreach efforts to underrepresented communities, and ensuring that promotional processes are fair and equitable for all members
  • Establishing a human rights policy that makes sure that WPS and WPSB activities, policies, procedures, directives and job descriptions of civilian and sworn positions include components that focus on and comply with Ontario’s Human Rights Code
  • Collecting data on internal and external human rights complaints, and developing performance management mechanisms to realize the Project Charter’s change initiatives
  • Increasing the human rights knowledge base through training and education.

 During the first year, the project partners set up four subcommittees to address key areas of concern: recruitment, selection, promotion and retention; accountability; public liaison; and accommodation (for example, meeting the needs of people with disabilities).

Progress has been encouraging – first-year results show a strong commitment at senior levels for positive human rights change and show what can be achieved when partners work together to address human rights concerns.

When systemic change is not enough – using the law

Systemic change in policing does not mean the need for vigilance goes away. That’s why litigation continues to be part of the OHRC’s strategy to address human rights in law enforcement. We intervened in the case of Phipps v. Toronto Police Services Board where the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that Toronto Police had racially profiled Ronald Phipps, who is Black, when he was delivering mail in an affluent Toronto neighbourhood. That case went to judicial review, with the OHRC again intervening. In March 2012, the Divisional Court upheld the HRTO’s decision. 

We are involved in two cases about inmate care in custody, where we hope to address the way services are provided to inmates, so that their human rights are respected. This is also part of the Project Charter with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

We are also intervening in a series of cases against several police services on how section 45.1 of the Code applies in the context of the Police Services Act. Section 45.1 says that “the Tribunal may dismiss an application… if the Tribunal is of the opinion that another proceeding has appropriately dealt with the substance of the application.” In these cases, the issue, which the Tribunal described as “a significant one,” is whether it can dismiss a human rights application because the applicant’s complaints made under the Police Services Act were not found to be substantiated.

The African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario are also intervening in these cases, which include:

Book Prev / Next Navigation