Saturday, 10 August 2019

Police Board Holds Public Consultation on Race-based Data Collection Policy

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed  Notisha Massaquoi, Co-Chair of the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel of the Toronto Police Services Board

The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) and its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP) are inviting the public to participate in the development of its Race-based Data Collection policy.

The Board will be meeting with various stakeholders, community groups and subject matters, and would also like to provide the public with the opportunity to provide invaluable input into the development of the final policy that will be presented to the Board for approval in September.

For more than a decade, communities have been asking for the Toronto Police Service to collect and report on race-based data collection, in order to enhance transparency, accountability, and to help to create a better understanding on how policing services are delivered, specifically across racialized, marginalized and vulnerable populations.

“With the drafting of this policy, the Toronto Police Services Board wanted to ensure that in addition to working with the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP), the public was confident that a sufficient number and representative cross-section of community members, community organizations, subject-matter experts as well as members of the Toronto Police Service were consulted in the development of the Policy,” say Uppala Chandrasekera and Notisha Massaquoi, Co-Chairs of the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel.

Chandrasekera is the director of public policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association and a member of the TPSB, who is a well-regarded mental health advocate, and Massaquoi is the executive director of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands and a prominent equity champion.

The panel itself is a diverse group of community members, mental health advocates, academics, service providers and police officers.

“This policy is literally groundbreaking as the Toronto Police Service Board is the first police governance body in partnership with various communities, to create a comprehensive policy that makes race-based data collection mandatory across the entire organization and the Toronto Police Service will be the first police service in Canada to create the resulting operationalized procedure,” say the Co-Chairs.

They said the Board and Service wanted to be proactive, working ahead of the timelines set out in the Anti-Racism Act's Anti-Racism Data Standards which came into effect in 2017.

“The development of this policy demonstrates that our Board and Service are committed to becoming national leaders in this very important and topical area.”

Chandrasekera and Massaquoi note that the collection of race-based data means that racialized communities can better monitor how policing services are delivered in their communities.

“It provides an opportunity to analyse trends and behaviours, and creates the opportunity to identify gaps in training, process and procedure. The public reporting of this data is a first step towards an open, transparent working partnership with communities in the interest of increasing public trust and eliminating systemic racism.”

Photo contributed  Uppala Chandrasekera, Co-Chair of the Anti-Racism Advisory Panel of the Toronto Police Services Board

The Anti-Racism Advisory Panel’s work is grounded in an anti-oppression framework, with a specific focus on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, as well as an analysis of the systemic, intersectional, and historical ways that racism and discrimination affect Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples.

Initially, the work of ARAP was intended to focus only on the establishment of a monitoring framework (i.e. key benchmarks and performance indicators) for the Board to use in assessing the response to and implementation of each of the recommendations from the inquest into the death of Andrew Loku.

Loku, a Black man with mental health challenges and a father of five, originally from South Sudan, was shot and killed by police on July 5, 2015 after refusing to drop a hammer he was carrying in the building where he lived. The shooting sparked days of protest by Black Lives Matter in Toronto.

Following the release of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s interim report, “A Collective Impact: Interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service,” the TPSB determined it was appropriate to expand ARAP’s mandate to include the development of a mandatory race-based data collection policy for the TPS.

A draft of the Race-based Data Collection Policy notes that “…it is the Board’s policy that race-based data will be collected by the Service in all stops, searches, interactions involving Use of Force, charges, apprehensions and arrests.

“The Board has chosen to engage in a phased implementation of this Policy, with a focus on a single area for collection first: all Use of Force incidents. After this first phase is properly evaluated, the Board will, as soon as possible, expand the application of this Policy to the mandatory collection of race-based data across all areas of the Service.”

 The link is now available on the TPSB’s website, under the "Policies & By-Laws" tab until the end of August.

This is a unique opportunity for communities to provide feedback into what will be a groundbreaking policy in Civilian Oversight and Police Governance.

[This story has been published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 8-14, 2019.]

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