The final report of the Transformational Task Force on policing in Toronto, released on January 25 last, has drawn widespread comments in Toronto’s Caribbean community.
While many in the community welcome the idea of a “neighbourhood-centric” approach to policing and a change in police culture recommended in the “Action Plan: The Way Forward,” as the report is called, there remains considerable scepticism about the proposed “transformation” of the Toronto Police services.
Discussing culture change, the report notes that the public has expressed “concerns … about individual and systemic bias, racism, discrimination, inappropriate use of force and escalation” and stressed that “there is more the service can do to strengthen and deepen its culture of professionalism and accountability
But one Black community leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that ” distrust of the police ” in some sections of the Caribbean community is deep-seated and it would take more than just another report to change the negative attitudes towards the police.
Kenneth Jeffers, the lone Black member of the Toronto Police Services Board and long-time community activist, also addressed some of the concerns of the community in a an interview with the Caribbean Camera.
Noting that the report deals with ” not just change but transformation,” he said” it is quite challenging to initiate a transformation of police services in relative isolation from the rest of the criminal justice system, particularly when some groups view themselves as victims of systemic harrassment and discrimination.
” Don’t forget that the police is the entry point to the criminal justice system.
“So when you have a criminal justice system not sufficiently acknowledged (in the report), people concerned about systemic and anti-black racism want to know why.They want to know why the role of the human rights commission and the human rights triibunal was not discussed in the report. Some people are confused about this.”
Asked about the recommeded culture change in the Toronto Police services, Jeffers said ” we need to state what we mean by ‘culture.’
” Culture is defined as ‘norms’ ‘values’ ‘beliefs’, attitudes that inform and shape behaviour and / or that define an organization. Therefore, what are some of the core, existing beliefs, values and norms and practices that the Toronto Police Services has to change? And how?
Describing culture change in the Toronto Police Services as a ” unique challenge,” Jeffers said he believes that it was incumbent on the Transformational Task Force ” to explain to an impatient public, the challenge of culture change in a paramilitary organization.”
” There are very few or perhaps no prior examples that we could find through our extensive research of the success of culture change in a military or paramilitary organization,” he noted.
Commenting on the proposed ongoing evaluation and monitoring of progress of the Toronto Police Services in which the community will plays an official role, Jeffers said ” this is perhaps uunprecedented.”
But he warned that this would be a difficult task for community groups which lack the resources.
“Resources should be provided to groups to enable them to carry out this function,”he suggested.
The Transformational Task Force which held public consultations over several months last year, was co-chaired by Andy Pringle, chairman of the Toronto Police Services Board, and Mark Saunders, chief of the Toronto Police Services.
It was mandated to look beyond the way policing is currently done in Toronto.