Board Approves Comprehensive Policing Reform Package to Build New Community Safety Responses, Address Systemic Racism, and Improve Trust with Communities
At its meeting today, the Toronto Police Services Board approved a significant number of recommendations that will put in place a roadmap for comprehensive policing reform. The reforms include building new community safety response models, initiatives to address systemic racism and concrete steps to improve trust with our communities. This important step follows robust public engagement that occurred over the months of June, July and into August, following thousands of messages that the Board received from members of the public on police reform, accountability, and community safety priorities.
In developing this roadmap, the Board held a series of Town Hall meetings over four days in July. In total, over 200 individuals and representatives of community organizations spoke at the Town Hall meetings, or made a written statement or recording. The Board also conducted extensive consultations with the community members of both its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel and its Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Panel, obtaining input and ideas that helped form the recommendations approved today. Of course, the Board also closely monitored the deliberations and incorporated the decisions on policing reform made by City Council at its meeting that occurred in June. Taken together, the Board has heard from the public and organizations about what community safety looks like for Torontonians, and has committed to continuing to engage on these issues moving forward.
In approving a report from Chair Jim Hart that contained over 80 recommendations, the Board acknowledged that there is a long history of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, discrimination, and marginalization in our city and that systemic racism occurs within policing, as it does in many other public and private systems. The report highlighted what the Board has been hearing through its consultations with the public and its advisory panels on anti-racism and mental health and addictions: policing cannot be done as it always has been. The report further acknowledged that the important work towards reform must be done in partnership with others, including our city's diverse communities. Importantly, the Board views the steps taken today as a beginning; one that proposes immediate action and a commitment to change through ongoing consultation and a reimagining of our current approach to community safety.
Some of the significant recommendations included in the Chair’s report that were approved by the Board include the following:
- Development of Alternative Community Safety Response: develop new and enhance existing alternative models of community safety response, including mobile mental health and addictions crisis intervention. This work will be undertaken with a spectrum of partners that includes the City of Toronto, Government of Ontario, community-based mental health and addictions service providers, organizations representing people with mental health and/or addictions issues and other stakeholders.
- Expansion of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Program from within the existing police budget: direct the Chief of Police to prioritize and create a plan to implement, as soon as feasible, an immediate expansion of the MCIT program in partnership with existing community-based crisis services, including peer support, to meet current demands for mental health-related service calls, recognizing the need for the Service’s partners to secure necessary funding for this expansion, with a view to providing MCIT services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and across all Divisions. An additional Motion approved by the Board directed the Chief to examine, as part of the expansion of the MCIT program, the concept of making MCIT the first responder as often as possible, in mental health crisis calls, and to report back later this year.
- Increasing Budget Transparency and Public Engagement: require that an enhanced line-by-line breakdown of the 2020 Toronto Police Service Budget to be posted to the Service’s website in a machine readable, open format that would facilitate further analysis of the information; and direct the Chief of Police to provide an annual line-by-line breakdown of the Toronto Police Service’s budget request at the outset of every annual budget process. The Service has already posted the 2020 enhanced line-by-line budget, which can be found at: https://www.torontopolice.on.ca/budget/
- Anti-Racism Training: direct the Chief of Police to immediately make permanent the current anti-Black racism training component of the annual re-training (civilians) and In-Service Training Program (uniform) and create a permanent stand-alone training course that contributes to professional practice in policing, with a view to supporting an organizational culture committed to the delivery of fair and unbiased police services to Toronto’s diverse communities and populations.
- Board’s Advisory Panels: confirm the permanency of the Board’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel and the Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Panel, with comprehensive expanded mandates and a membership that will bring the voices of community and expert organizations to the table in providing ongoing advice to the Board on these important issues.
- Invitation to City’s Auditor General: direct the Chair and Executive Director to work with the Auditor General to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding, and accompanying work plan, to engage the Auditor General to perform audits of the Service to improve service delivery, identify specific areas of success and specific areas for improvement within the Service, and to find potential areas for savings and redistribution of funding. This expands on the existing work that the Board has already asked the Auditor General to do.
The Board also approved recommendations regarding the upcoming selection process for the new Chief of Police, mechanisms to make disciplinary proceedings under the Police Services Act more transparent and accessible, increased collaboration with the City’s Anti-Black Racism Unit, among many others.
As part of the policing reform roadmap, the Board also approved a new, first-of-its-kind framework to monitor the implementation of the recommendations made at the Inquest into the Death of Andrew Loku. This framework was the product of work conducted by the Board’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel. A critical element of this framework is the incorporation of ongoing community evaluation as to whether recommendations have been effectively and meaningfully implemented. The Anti-Racism Advisory Panel emphasized that implementation cannot be measured simply by internal benchmarks – therefore, perspective of the public will be essential in monitoring success and ensuring continued improvement.
Lastly, the Board approved a recommendation from the Chief approving a Body-Worn Camera contract award with Axon Canada for a five-year term (with the option to extend for an additional year). As noted in the report, while the primary objective of utilizing body-worn cameras is officer accountability and maintaining a truthful integral narrative of police interactions with the public, it also has a number of additional benefits. With the contract approved, the Board and the Service will now put in place significant policy and procedural requirements that will address data integrity, privacy, and impose consequences for not using the technology properly.
At today’s meeting, the Board also welcomed it newest Board Member, Ms. Lisa Kostakis, appointed by the Province for a three-year term and acknowledged the extraordinary contributions of recently retired Chief, Mark Saunders, and Ms. Uppala Chandrasekera, who recently ended her term on the Board.
Chair Jim Hart said that “the recommendations approved by the Board at today’s meeting are a concrete demonstration that the perspectives of the public can and must be a part of the way in which we define community safety and deliver policing services in Toronto. It is critical that our approach in moving forward is both collaborative and universal, considering initiatives not in isolation, but as part of a much bigger strategic community roadmap, one that incorporates community voices and plots a path ahead that is inclusive, innovative and, ultimately, successful by everyone’s standards.”
Mayor John Tory said that "sensible, meaningful policing change must happen and will happen through the work the Board is doing, the work the Interim Chief is doing, and the work City Council is doing. I am determined that this will lead to real change now. The report approved today represents both the beginning of an agenda of real change and a defining moment – defined as should be the case by the people. I look forward to constructive, collaborative work with the community and the police service to make sure we get this done and get it right."
Contact: Sandy Murray