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Human rights and policing: Creating and sustaining organizational change

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Executive Summary

Background and purpose

This guide aims to encourage and support police services across Ontario in their work as it relates to upholding the Ontario Human Rights Code. The development of this guide is built on the experience gained in a three-year collaborative human rights organizational change project between the Ontario Human Rights Commission (the OHRC), the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB). The principled human rights approach elaborated in the guide can help police services better serve the needs of Ontario’s increasingly diverse communities, and draw on the strengths of police services’ own internal diversity.

The guide integrates human rights and organizational change theory and best practice and provides a solid foundation from which to foster and sustain inclusive police services and prevent human rights violations before they happen. The guide details an ongoing, consciously planned for, change process that engages all aspects of organizational functioning, in a systematic effort to advance organizations and services towards enhanced inclusiveness and respect for the dignity, worth and rights of everyone. The guide showcases the value of adopting such a comprehensive human rights organizational change strategy and approach as a means of proactively responding to, and complying with, human rights obligations in all employment and service practices.

The earlier sections of the guide define and explain some of the key foundational human rights terms and principles distinguishing the human rights approach. The core sections of the guide elaborate recommended steps and best practices (including “things to avoid”) which are interspersed with many case study examples from the Toronto Police Services Human Rights Project experience. These case study examples provide concrete examples of the application of human rights organizational change strategies within a policing organizational setting. While highlighting the example of the TPS, the guide recognizes the diversity of organizational settings and capacities within Ontario’s police services, and encourages users to tailor their strategies accordingly.

Key components of an effective human rights organizational change strategy explored in this guide include, and stress the importance of:

  • A comprehensive organizational change approach
  • A unified, committed and involved leadership
  • An articulated vision and shared terminology
  • Empowered and capable lead change agents
  • A multi-stakeholder structure and process for change
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation
  • Ongoing communication and reporting
  • Identifying and planning for resistance; and
  • Choosing strategic “areas of focus” for change

The closing sections of the guide provide some very concrete examples of specific actions to consider in the areas of organizational and employment practices, service delivery and training, again drawing on the Toronto Police Service experience.

Finally, a Glossary of Terms is included in the Appendix that brings together and defines many of the key terms and concepts discussed throughout this manual for ease of reference.


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