‘We don’t accept your apologies,’ activist tells Toronto police chief after race-based data released

A sweeping Toronto police report released Wednesday confirms what many racialized people in the city have long been saying: Black, Indigenous and other diverse groups are disproportionately affected by use of force and street searches. naked by officers.

At a morning press conference, Acting Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said the force needed to do better.

“As an organization, we have not done enough to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and impartial policing,” he said.

  • You can read the Toronto police briefing on the data at the bottom of this story.

“For this, as Chief of Police and on behalf of the police, I am sorry and apologize unreservedly,” Ramer continued.

“The release of this data will cause pain to many. We need to improve and we will do better.”

WATCH | Chief Ramer apologizes for systemic racism to Toronto Police Service:

Toronto police chief apologizes after race-based data released

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer has apologized to racialized communities after new data collected by the force showed communities were “disproportionately over-policed”.

The apology was not well received by Beverly Bain of the group No Pride in Policing, which describes itself as a coalition of queer and trans people formed to support Black Lives Matter Toronto and focused on defunding the police.

In a tense moment during the press conference, Bain criticized Ramer’s response to the data.

“Chief Ramer, we don’t accept your apologies,” she said, underscoring an impassioned speech about how black, Indigenous and other racialized groups have faced police in the city.

Bain called Ramer’s apology a “public relations stunt” that is “insulting” to black and Indigenous people.

“It’s not about saving our lives. What we’ve been asking you is to stop. Stop brutalizing us. Stop killing us,” she said.

WATCH | Beverly Bain says the black community has never asked for an apology:

“Chief Ramer, we do not accept your apologies”, says the lawyer

On Wednesday, Beverly Bain of the No Pride In Policing Coalition spoke to Toronto Police Chief James Ramer at a race-based data press conference.

More force used against Black more often: data

The never-before-seen statistics released today were drawn from records of 949 use-of-force incidents and 7,114 strip searches during the year 2020. The granular analysis, compiled by the Equity, Inclusion and Rights Unit of the Force alongside external data experts in concert with a 12-member community panel, examines a wide range of issues.

One of its findings was that Blacks, Indigenous peoples and Middle Easterners were all overrepresented in the number of “law enforcement actions” taken against them relative to their total population in Toronto. For black residents, it was a factor of 2.2.

In other words, blacks made up about 10% of the city’s population that year, but faced 22.6% of law enforcement, which includes arrests, provincial tickets, warnings and diversions.

Similarly, Blacks, Latinos, East/Southeast Asians, and Middle Easterners were overrepresented by factors of 1.6 times, 1.5 times, 1.2 times, and 1.2 times , respectively, with regard to the use of force.

Police also tended to use more force against racialized groups more often than whites, especially when it came to police officers drawing their guns.

Blacks, South Asians, and East/South Asians were significantly more likely than whites — 1.5 times, 1.6 times, and twice, respectively — to have an officer pointing a gun on them during an interaction.

The statistics also show that racial differences in the use of force remain even after taking into account what the police were initially called to investigate and what the primary offense was.

For many racialized groups, the police divisions in which they experienced the highest rates of use of force were also those in which they made up a smaller proportion of the population, the analysis found.

“Our own analysis of our 2020 data reveals that there is systemic discrimination in our police departments,” Ramer said.

“That is, there is a disproportionate impact on racialized people, especially those in black communities.”

Focus on systemic racism

The data is anonymized and intended to highlight systemic racism and bias in policing, Ramer said. It will not be used to identify “individual acts of racism” by officers, he added. These are cases of misconduct and there are other ways for the force to address them, Ramer said. He added that “overt racism” will never be tolerated.

The acting chief also spoke directly to Toronto police employees, saying he thinks they are more committed than ever to ending systemic racism within the force.

“I want you to know that this is an organizational shortcoming and it does not relate to your actions as police officers and civilian members,” he said.

“But we, every member of the service, should find the information released today difficult and uncomfortable.”

Ontario requires the public sector to collect race-based data as part of the anti-racism lawand in 2019, the Toronto Police Services Board approved a data policy that would begin with the use of force and then expand to other policing processes such as stops, searches, interrogations and depositions. of charges.

Acting Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said the data will not be used to sanction individual officers because provincial law requires it to be anonymized before analysis. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Use of force data was drawn in part from reports officers submit to the Ministry of the Solicitor General after interactions requiring medical attention for members of the community, as well as any time an officer draws or uses a gun or Taser, or uses another weapon. like their truncheon or pepper spray.

The 949 use of force cases reported in 2020 represent 0.2% of the 692,937 recorded police interactions with the public. Firearms were pointed in 371 of those encounters and used in four, two of which were fatal, police said.

TPS admits to ‘abusing’ race-based data before

The release of the data follows several recent reports from human rights and police complaints watchdogs that called for major reforms within the Toronto police.

In 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) concluded that Blacks were ‘grossly overrepresented’ in several types of violent police interactionsincluding use of force cases, shootings, deadly encounters and fatal shootings.

The OHRC reported that between 2013 and 2017 in Toronto, a black person was nearly 20 times more likely than a white person to be shot by police.

A follow-up OHRC analysis released in 2020 found that Blacks are also more likely than others to be arrested and charged during interactions with the Toronto police.

In its new report, the force admitted to having “misused” race-based data in the past. This is an apparent reference to carding – the practice of collecting identifying information during random street checks – which the province decided to significantly restrict in 2017.

Reforms led to a dramatic drop in strip searches

Research published Wednesday also looked at whether racial groups were disproportionately represented in strip searches.

The results show that Aboriginal people were 1.3 times overrepresented relative to their presence in arrests. Meanwhile, blacks and whites were 1.1 times overrepresented.

Toronto Police revised their strip search procedures in October 2020, which led to a dramatic drop in the number of searches from that point on.

Before the changes, about 27% of all arrests that year involved a strip search. That dropped to four about five percent after that.

Changes to the policy provided that all strip searches be authorized by a supervisor and vetted by senior management.

The reforms have helped end the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in strip searches in 2021, the analysis concluded. But racial gaps remained for black and white residents who were arrested.

The changes were introduced after a 2019 report by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director found that unnecessary and illegal strip searches had become common practice among police forces in Ontario.

The report released this morning also includes 38 actions that the force says will help address racial gaps in use-of-force incidents and strip searches. At a media briefing on Tuesday, a police official said a publicly available online dashboard will track the force’s progress in implementing actions in the months and years to come.

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