Racialized communities – particularly Black and Indigenous – disproportionately over-policed: Toronto Police Chief

THE Toronto Police Service on Wednesday released findings from its Race-Based Data Collection (RBDC) Strategy, aimed at understanding and assessing racial disparities in its policing. The findings are based on analysis of data collected in 2020 of officers’ perceptions of an individual’s race in use-of-force and strip searches.

In 2019, as part of the Ontario government’s Anti-Racism Act, all police services were directed to begin collecting race-based data in instances of reportable use-of-force. The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) approved a “Race-Based Data Collection, Analysis and Public Reporting” policy with the objective of identifying, measuring, and ultimately, eliminating systemic racism.

According to a press release, the Toronto Police Service went beyond the mandate and expanded the scope of data collection to include strip searches. The purpose was to assess whether racial disparities exist, and if so, in what measure, and what can be done to eliminate them.

All of the findings are available on the Race-Based Data Collection webpage at TPS.ca.

Key results from the Service’s data findings include:

  • Black, Indigenous, and racialized people are over-represented in both use-of-force incidents as well as in strip searches.
  • Use-of-Force:
    • Black people are 2.2 times more likely to have an interaction with police officers and are 1.6 times more likely to have force used on them during the interaction.
    • Black, East/Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and Latino people were overrepresented in reported use-of-force incidents compared to their presence in enforcement action population.
  • Strip Searches:
    • Strip search rates varied throughout the year and dropped significantly following changes to the Search of Persons policy in October 2020, resulting in a significant decline in strip searches.
    • There were differences by race in strip search rates with Black, Indigenous and White people over-represented relative to their presence in arrests.

Chief of Police James Ramer said, “The results have confirmed what, for many decades, racialized communities – particularly the Black and Indigenous communities — have been telling us; that they are disproportionately over-policed. This data demonstrates the unfortunate realities of those experiences. As an organization, we have not done enough to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and unbiased policing.

“For this, as Chief of Police, and on behalf of the Service, I am sorry and I apologize unreservedly. The release of this data will cause pain for many.  Your concerns have deep roots that go beyond the release of today’s report. We must improve; we will do better,”

He continued, “As difficult as these findings are, we recognize that this is some of the most important work we have ever done. Getting to this point with our data has been challenging, but we are committed to using the 2020 findings as a baseline to build upon actions that have already begun and will continue in the years ahead.”

Ramer added, “We will continue to listen, engage and act, all with the goal of propelling us forward in our ultimate goal of providing fair and equitable policing to all.”

The Service has identified 38 actions to address the use-of-force and strip search outcomes which can be found on the Race-Based Data Collection 2020 Findings webpage.

These actions are in line with other ongoing reform initiatives including:

  • The TPSB 81 Recommendations on police reform
  • The 151 recommendations flowing from Justice Epstein’s Missing & Missed inquiry; and
  • An Equity Strategy designed to embed human rights into all that we do as a Service, internally and externally.

For all information on the Service’s Use-of-Force and Strip Search findings, Fact Sheets and Backgrounders, visit the Race-Based Data Collection webpage at TPS.ca.