Toronto police reform plan can be fixed

John Tory and Jim Hart

The Toronto Police Services Board, at its meeting earlier this week, unanimously passed  no fewer than 81 recommendations aimed  at police reform.

It seemed like a major step forward.

Toronto Mayor John Tory  described the  recommendations as the “most sweeping series of proposed changes to policing,.”

And he pointed out  that they were “a recognition of the fact that we know we must do more because systemic racism in policing threatens the equal rights and opportunity and justice and wellbeing of Indigenous, Black and marginalized communities in our city.”

However, many in  our own Caribbean community believe that the proposed police reform plan, does not go far enough.

Ena Chadha

The vote on the recommendations came just a few days after a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission  (OHRC) showing  that Black people are much more likely to be arrested, shot or killed by police, making up some 32 per cent of those charged in Toronto, while only representing 8.8 per cent of the population.

And  concerned citizens in our community say the recommendations fail to address the calls so often heard these days at rallies and demonstrations to defund the police or make the force more  accountable to  Black people and other minorities.

The OHRC itself  has also been critical of the reform plan.

 Chief Commissioner Ena Chadha , in a deputation at Tuesday’s meeting of the  board, called the plan “flawed” and asked  why the Commission hadn’t been asked to review the recommendations,

In a statement the  OHRC said ” it is concerned that the Police Reform Report  and its recommendations will amount to mere lip service – another report on  the shelf that fails to result in substantive change.”

“As it stands, the OHRC cannot support this report and its recommendations, due to both procedural and substantive deficiencies,” it said.

 It also noted  that “the OHRC and racialized communities have seen how past recommendations and policies of the Toronto Police Services Board  “can appear transformative on paper, and yet fail to yield meaningful, tangible results.”

Of course, the points raised by the OHRC are indeed of genuine concern to many in our own comunity.

However, while the plan is flawed, we believe it can be fixed and we continue to look forward to positive action with respect to police reform.

We note that the recommendations span a broad range of issues,including the expansion of mobile crisis teams, implementing a plan to equip officers with body-worn cameras, creating non-police alternatives for community safety, providing the city’s auditor general increased access to Toronto police force’s $1.2 billion budget as well as increasing training on anti-Black racism.

We also note with great interest that Jim Hart , chairman of the board, acknowledges that “the Board must be a catalyst for reform that addresses systemic racism in the areas of community safety and policing.”

 But as he himself has pointed out, much  remains to be done ” and it must be done in partnership with others, including our city’s diverse communities.

Let us therefore, get ahead with the job .