Report of Transformational Task Force on policing does not go far enough – Jeffers

Kenneth Jeffers

The wide-ranging report of the Transformational Task Force on policing was finally approved at a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board on February 23 last.

But for Kenneth Jeffers, the lone black member of the Board and long-time community activist, the report  which  recommends a “neighbourhood-centric” approach to policing and a change in police culture ” doesn’t go far enough.”

In an interview with the Caribbean Camera this week, Jeffers said ” for me, some things are missing.”

Jeffers said  he is concerned  “that we have not addressed in the report the matter of discrimination as it pertains to systemic racism, anti-Black racism, as well as issues of policing in poverty stricken  and LGBTTQ  communities and others which have protested over the years.”

According to Jeffers, the quality of policing ” is generally defined by the way marginalized and vulnerable communities are being serviced.”

” A failure to even make reference and also acknowledge the reality of protests against what many consider unfair and targeted policing against people of colour, marginalized communities and people of African descent in particular, could compromise the sincere intention for an historic transformation of the Toronto Police Services,” he noted.

Jeffers pointed out that  ” the concerns of perceived and real  experiences of racism are coming not only from people of colour but many Torontonians of different backgrounds understand that it affects the entire city and they too wish to see us take a lead in putting structures in place to minimize public conflicts. ”

He explained the negative views and perceptions by segments of the Toronto community about the police,  “are never intended to make a statement that all police are racist and anti Black racists .”

But he said they are ” bold statements expressing that there needs to be a transformation and a major paradigm shift in the systemic culture and behavioural practices of policing.  ”

Noting one of his major concerns about the report, Jeffers 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 harassment and discrimination.”

” Many marginalized groups in particular, tend to see and also experience what they view as a systemic  conspiracy to be treated unfairly.  These realities need to be at least acknowledged.   This should be considered as a necessity in the roll out of recommendations for the future,.”

” We are given a unique opportunity and challenge to convince our communities in Toronto that we are sincere in our commitment to a major transformation, not only change, ” he added.

Jeffers also noted ” the anxiety and impatience” for culture change  which is addressed in the report “as being a ten to fifteen year process.

” It is precisely for this reason why I believe that we should have detailed discussion on the implications and merits of culture change, particularly in a paramilitary organization based on many years of tradition and legislated roles and methodologies of management

“To my knowledge, general research suggests that comparative culture transformation in a paramilitary organization is rare or even nonexistent.”

Jeffers suggested that the book  on policing in Canada written by  John Sewell and some of the former reports and recommendations on policing “should have been extensively factored into the final report.”

“In order to minimize skepticism by the public regarding the final report and its implementation, it would have been helpful to review barriers to the implementation of many former reports and offer  strategic recommendations to guarantee implementation for the current final report, ” he said.

Jeffers who is nursing an eye injury, said he had submitted three documents to the Toronto Police Services Board expressing his opinions about  the transformation  of  policing in Toronto ” but they were never officially acknowledged.”

He explained that because of  the eye injury he missed several Board meetings .

“So I don’t know if they( the documents) were part of the discussions  at these meeting.”

” I am assuming that the very tight timelines may have been partly responsible for communication challenges,” he added.

An angry Jeffers voiced “deep disappointment” that not one single black member of the public was present at the February 23 meeting of the  Board  when the report of the Transformational  Task Force was approved.