Interim Toronto police chief says sorry to the Black community


This is the type of treatment that The Black community get all the time

Toronto’s Black residents received an apology yesterday from James Ramer, the city’s interim police chief, at a news conference as the force released race-based data showing disproportionate use of force on them.

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

“For this, as chief of police and on behalf of the service, I am sorry and I apologize unreservedly.”

But his apology was swiftly rejected by several social activists.

“This is insulting to Black people,” Beverly Bain with the No Pride in Policing coalition, told Ramer at the news conference.

No Pride in Policing describes itself as a coalition of queer and trans people formed in support of Black Lives Matter Toronto and focused on defunding police.

Chief James Ramer

Bain said that Black people have called for years for police to stop treating them unfairly.

 “Chief Ramer, we do not accept your apology.”

She called the apology a “public relations stunt.”

“This is not about saving our lives. What we have asked for you to do is stop. To stop brutalizing us. To stop killing us,” she said.

Statistics released yesterday relate to incidents that took place in 2020.

Though Blacks made up about 10 per cent of the city’s population that year, the figures show Black people faced 22.6 per cent of police enforcement action, which includes arrests, provincial offences tickets, cautions and diversions.

At the same time, 39.4 per cent of use of force incidents involved Black people, the data show.

The newly released statistics show Black people were more likely to have an officer point a gun at them — whether perceived as armed or unarmed — than white people in the same situation.

Ramer acknowledged the data “will cause pain for many” and pledged to make improvements.

“We recognize that when a person has an encounter with the police, it can have a profound impact on their life, their mental health and their trust in policing,” he said.

“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,” he added.

The statistics, which also include data on race and strip searches, are the first to be released under the Toronto Police Service’s race-based data policy. The policy was implemented in 2019 following several reports on race and policing as well as provincial legislation requiring several public sectors to collect such information.

Toronto police have laid out 38 recommendations to address the findings, which they say are part of a broader effort to “reduce disparate outcomes.”

These include engaging with Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities to understand the data and discuss a path forward; implementing a mandatory review of body-worn camera footage for all use-of-force incidents; and requiring officers on probation during their first year of service to debrief with supervisors after use of force incidents.

Police also say they will broaden their analysis in the next phase to include arrests, apprehensions and diversions. Collection of that data began in January last year.

The provincial government began collecting race-based data related to use of force from police services in 2020, three years after passing legislation that required several public sectors to collect data on race.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association CCLA) and the Black Legal Action Centre noted that many earlier reports and studies have highlighted systemic racism in policing.

“Police have continued to paint community concern around these issues as anecdotal while actively suppressing the very data that they released today,” Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a special advisor on anti-Black racism for the CCLA, noted in a statement.

“Although they have now been forced to release this information, it still only provides a small window into the ways that Black and other racialized communities are disproportionately impacted by police actions.”