Peacebuilders Canada listened in dismay on Wednesday as Interim Police Chief James Ramer delivered an uninspired apology for his department’s disturbing racialized use-of-force problem.
In 2017, the Government of Ontario directed police forces across the province to begin collecting race-based data on their use of force and strip searches. This Wednesday, Toronto Police released their data to the public. While racialized people living in Toronto do not need statistics to tell them that they are disproportionally affected by oppressive police conduct, this is exactly what the report bears out.
Black Torontonians are more than twice as likely to interact with a police officer and are 1.6 times more likely to have force used on them during the interaction. East/Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino people were all similarly overrepresented in police use-of-force incidents.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Toronto Interim Police Chief James Ramer apologized to the public, as the “release of this data will cause pain for many.” He went on to acknowledge that his force “needs to do better” in combatting systemic racism and biases in policing.
For Peacebuilders’ Executive Director, Marlon Merraro, the Interim Chief’s words rang hollow. “The Black community in Toronto has not been asking for an apology. Stopping violence and the racist, oppressive action of the police service should have been the priority.”
Any serious effort to curb systemic racism within TPS must begin with accountability. Accountability is not satisfied by vague promises to “do better”. It begins with a commitment to ensure every instance of police misconduct is reported and that no violation goes without penalty.
The release of this troubling report gave the Toronto police service an opportunity to display genuine accountability. Instead, Toronto Police were content to deliver symbolic apologies over concrete action – and it is racialized Torontonians who pay the price.