TORONTO, Ontario (Friday June 16, 2022) — Toronto Police Service (TPS) Chief, James Ramer, issued an apology, yesterday, to Black, Indigenous and racialized people, who are over-represented in use-of-force incidents and strip searches.
Speaking at a news conference at police headquarters, to release findings, detailing the analysis of race-based data, collected in use-of-force and strip search interactions, he said the results confirm what racialized communities – particularly Black and Indigenous communities – have been saying for decades.
“That is, that they are disproportionately over-policed,” admitted Ramer. “This data demonstrates the unfortunate realities of those experiences. As an organization, we have not done enough, to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and unbiased policing. For this, as Chief of Police and on behalf of the Service, I am sorry and I apologize unreservedly.”
The report findings disclosed that Black people are 2.2 times more likely to interact with police officers, and 1.6 times more likely to have force used on them, during interactions.
Ramer acknowledged that the data release will trigger pain for many Black citizens.
“Your concerns have deep roots, and go beyond the release of today’s report,” he said. “We must improve and we will do better… As challenging as our findings are, this day presents an opportunity for us to be better — and to do better. In fact, because our legitimacy is tied to public trust, it tells us that we must be better. On behalf of my command, as the leaders of this organization, we take full responsibility.
“We have often heard from communities that apologies alone, are not sufficient, and we agree. It is also our responsibility to identify the systems and procedures that are contributing to the unfair treatment of racialized people, and to address it head-on. We will do all we can to fix this and some of this important work is already underway.”
As part of the provincial government 2019 Anti-Racism Act, Ontario’s police services were directed to start collecting race-based data in instances of reportable use-of-force.
The TPS subsequently approved a ‘Race-Based Data Collection, Analysis and Public Reporting’ policy, with the aim of identifying, measuring and eliminating systemic racism.
“I can confidently say that the approach we have used, reflects the best practices for race-data collection,” said Ramer. “It exemplifies what communities have asked of us and it adheres to leading practices and the anti-racism data standards.… Our goal is to focus our efforts on the systemic bias attributable to our actions, which we can control.”
In recent years, the Chief noted that the Service has been grappling with addressing and rooting out the complexities of systemic racism.
“We recognize that when a person has an encounter with the police, it can have a profound impact on their life, mental health and their trust in policing,” he stated. “It is for this reason that the Toronto Police Service must be a driving force and a leader in eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in policing, and anywhere it is found. It is a reason we must engage the communities most impacted and continue along this journey… You deserve better and our members deserve better.”
“In implementing a policy as a first measure, the Service is committed to collecting and analyzing data, not only in relation to incidents where officers use reportable force in the performance of their duties, but we are committed to doing the same with strip searches,” he said. “With the release of the initial results of this report and ongoing work, we recognize that today, will be a difficult day for many within the Service and within the communities we serve.”
“It is difficult for the Toronto Police Service because our own analysis of our data from 2020 discloses that there is systemic discrimination in our policing in these areas. That is that there is a disproportionate impact experienced by racialized people and, particularly those from Black communities when there is a use-of-force interaction with the Toronto Police Service,” Chief Ramer added.
As challenging as it is for Ramer and other Command members to come to terms with the data, the Chief said he recognizes it is even more difficult for members of Toronto Black communities, who have been saying, for years, that that they have been over-policed.
“I want our communities to know that I am listening,” he said. “I also acknowledge the impact that systemic bias has on Indigenous communities in Toronto. We know that their specific experience and the history of policing that is so intertwined with that experience has left our organization less trusting by members of Indigenous communities. We are not seen as the true partner for community safety that we are and want to be. We know that this is a role that must be earned.”
The Service has identified 38 actions to address the use-of-force and strip searches outcomes that can be found on the Race-Based Data Collection (RBDC) webpage.