Black residents more likely to die during interactions with Toronto cops: report
TORONTO -- Black people living in Toronto are grossly overrepresented in incidents where city police use force resulting in injury or death and are 20 times more likely to die in a police shooting than their white counterparts, Ontario's Human Rights Commission said Monday.
The findings are contained in an interim report on the commission's probe into racial profiling and discrimination by the Toronto Police Service.
After analyzing numbers collected from the force itself, as well as an agency that investigates police complaints, Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane said the resulting data should stand as proof that police need to take urgent action.
"The Ontario Human Rights Commission's findings ... are disturbing and they demand an explanation," Mandhane said at a news conference outlining the investigation's initial findings. "At this interim stage, we are calling on the Toronto police to acknowledge the commission's very serious human rights concerns."
Much of the data in the report was derived from cases probed by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, an agency that looks into incidents involving police in which someone is killed, injured or accused of sexual assault.
An examination of SIU cases involving Toronto police officers between Jan. 1, 2013 and June 30, 2017 suggested black people's serious interactions with city police were disproportionate to their representation in the population.
The report found that although black residents comprised 8.8 per cent of Toronto's total population, they accounted for 25 per cent of SIU investigations during the time period studied.
Black complainants were involved in 28 per cent of all use-of-force investigations, with their representation trending sharply upward as the seriousness of the force used increased.
The commission said black people were involved in 36 per cent of police shootings they studied, 61 per cent of police use-of-force cases involving civilian death, and 70 per cent of fatal police shootings.
The report also suggested black people are overrepresented in cases of inappropriate stops, searches or charges, adding those issues would be explored more thoroughly in its next report on the issue.
The commission made five interim recommendations, including urging the force and its board to acknowledge that racial disparities raise "serious concerns." It also urged the Toronto Police Services Board to begin collecting and publicly sharing race-based data on all stops, searches and use-of-force incidents, a practice the board has not been observing to date.
The force and the board issued a joint statement on Monday saying they accept the commission's recommendations, but also saying it was important to "scrutinize" the methodology and data behind the report.
In the statement, force spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the organizations are already taking steps to improve trust with the black community and said the conversation around these issues needs to involve questions about poverty, social inequality and the root causes of crime.
"Once the police are involved, it is often after all other systems have failed," the statement said. "This is not to say that this explains even a perceived disproportionate use of force by police; but it does highlight the reality that once the police have been called, the incident is often one of crisis."
Members of the black community appearing alongside Mandhane at Monday's news conference, however, said these issues have deep roots.
Valerie Steele of the Black Action Defence Committee said the commission's findings do not come as news to black residents who often take deliberate steps to avoid the risk of needless interactions with police.
"What is happening now has been happening for decades," she said. "It is wrong, it is racist, it must be stopped. The time has come."