In the same way the late Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to eradicating racism and ending injustices, the Toronto Police Service has resolved to comprehensively addressing bias in policing.
“This organization has chosen to join Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’,” declared Deputy Chief Peter Sloly in his keynote address at the Service’s 20th annual Black History Month celebration at headquarters on January 30.
He said the Service will use the Police & Community Engagement Report (PACER) to drive the necessary changes.
In March 2012, Chief William Blair directed a review of community engagement, particularly surrounding the information that’s collected by police about community members they come in contact with on the job.
The review team recognized the need to address the issue of bias in policing. As a result, Chief Blair expanded the review’s scope and the PACER team was set up in June 2012.
Sloly is the executive sponsor of the project which unveiled 31 recommendations last October. A total of 12 of the recommendations have been completed, seven are substantially done and the remaining 12 are in the early implementation stage.
The completed recommendations include the formation of a community advisory committee to work continuously with the Service, a requirement that racism/bias complaints are to be assigned to Professional Standards for a full investigation and a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding with the University of California at Los Angeles Centre for Police Equity which is a self-funded academic body that includes some of the foremost subject-matter experts on racial profiling and police legitimacy.
The mission of PACER is to make the Toronto Police Service a world leader in bias-free police delivery.
“The PACER report will never sit on a shelf and gather dust. It’s a living, breathing, community-mobilizing, action-producing implementation plan….Over the past year, the quantity of contact cards has been reduced by approximately 90 per cent. In that same period, major crime was also reduced by double digits. So we are already seeing strong indicators of changed officer performance, system efficiencies and police effectiveness. We have a long way to go but the PACER project has come a long way in a short time.”
The theme of this celebration’s was “The Power of Choice.”
“Making good and tough choices over the course of one’s life is no easy thing,” said Sloly.
“It takes character and courage in order to make the kind of choices needed to better lives and create better societies. Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ was all about the power of choice. It was about one magnificent man’s character and courage to choose to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.”
While in Kosovo on a United Nations peacekeeping mission just over a decade ago, Sloly took a week’s leave to travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town and visit Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity. He also bought a copy of Mandela’s autobiography, “A Long Walk to Freedom.”
As part of this year’s TPS Black History Month celebration, the Service’s Black Internal Support Network made a presentation to Larry McLarty, the Service’s first black officer who joined on Jan. 26, 1960 and retired 32 years later.
The Black Community Police Consultative Committee presented the Keith Forde Youth of Excellence Service award to Francis Atta.
“I am so honoured to receive this award and to be able to inspire young people,” said Atta, a George Brown College child & youth worker graduate who recently published a book, The Flip, which seeks to inspire young people to become useful societal citizens.
G98.7 FM on-air personalities Red and MC Bonde were the masters of ceremony for the program that featured spoken-word artists Jemeni, Dwayne Morgan and Brooke, along with vocalists Ray Robinson, Jermal Humphrey and the Revivaltime Tabernacle Choir.
The Service’s Divisional Policing Support Unit, the Diversity Management Unit and 33 Division played instrumental roles in hosting the event attended by Canada’s longest-serving senator, Anne Cools, members of the Caribbean consul corps in Toronto and several senior TPS officers.
Retired Sgt. Terry James came up with the idea of hosting an annual Black History Month celebration at police headquarters in 1994.