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 haven’t done enough to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and unbiased policing,” he said.
“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.”
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 in support of Black Lives Matter Toronto focused on defunding and abolishing 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.
Police used more force against black people 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.
You can read a Toronto police briefing on the data at the bottom of this story.
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.
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 a higher degree of force against racialized groups compared to whites, particularly when it came to police officers drawing their firearms.
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.
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.
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.
Any identifying information for members of the public and officers was removed from the data used in the use of force and strip search analysis, police said.
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.