Since November 2013, members of the community have worked collaboratively with Toronto Police to ensure the Service provides fair and bias-free policing to all Torontonians.
The Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) was launched in two phases, with its final report, published in October 2013, making 31 recommendations that would improve the way the TPS interacted with the public.
The report said, specifically, that the Toronto Police would consider its processes and procedures to ensure they were being developed and delivered in a way that would result in fair and bias-free policing.
“PACER was a really good example of the Service doing everything we possibly can and still trying to get better,” said Staff Sergeant Aly Virji, who has participated in the PACER project from the beginning.
The implementation of the PACER recommendations was coordinated by a team of Service members, led by Superintendent Myron Demkiw. The team has also provided support to the PACER Advisory Committee (PAC) meetings.
Five years later, the committee met one last time to celebrate the journey and focus on future steps.
The PAC is the result of recommendation number four being implemented as the Service saw the value in having the community’s involvement during the life of the project.
“We knew we had to have the public with us right, from the beginning,” said Chief Mark Saunders, who appointed Audrey Campbell, then-President of the Jamaican Canadian Association, as co-chair of the PAC. “Audrey is the first person I wanted at the table because she understood the importance [of PACER] and I am so thankful for the role she played.”
The PAC was also co-chaired by Service members, Superintendent David McLeod until his retirement, when Staff Sergeant Stacy Clarke took the chair.
“Stacy has been tremendous behind the scenes,” said the Chief. “She has worked to break down obstacles so the recommendations could be implemented as quickly as possible.”
Of the report’s 31 recommendations, 26 have been fully implemented with the remaining five still in progress.
Even though the official timelines of PACER have ended, some Service and community members will continue to partner on projects such as a Know Your Rights public education campaign and a community survey that will provide baseline and future analysis on how the public feels about trust, legitimacy, customer service, racial profiling, and bias in policing.
The Service will also continue to work with the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) on a review of the PACER project. Led by Dr. Phillip Goff, CPE works collaboratively with law enforcement, communities, and political stakeholders to identify ways to strengthen relationships with the communities they serve. The final report from CPE is expected in the fall of 2017.
Many on the PAC are proud of their accomplishments, such as the introduction of a new Core Value for the Service (Freedom from Bias) and the implementation of Fair & Impartial Policing training for all members of the Service.
“Being a part of the PACER committee, for me, has been one of the greatest experiences that I’ve had. I’ve learned a lot and I feel that I have given a lot in terms of input,” said community member Donna Harrow, a long-serving PACER participant. “I wish that something like this does continue and that I can be a part of something like this going forward, because I believe we need a group of people like this to make changes, not only in our police service but in the city as a whole.”
PAC member David D’Oyen said he hopes PACER will open doors for further partnerships between community and police to talk candidly.
“We tried to be as honest as we could, on both sides… we were here trying to do the best for our community. But this is a model for change and, going forward, I hope there’s more collaboration,” D’Oyen said.
Joining the celebration were members of the community who have travelled this road before by working closely with the police.
Roy Williams was the founding president of the Jamaican Canadian Association and a Police Services Board member from 1987-1993. Not only was Williams the first black member of the Toronto Police Services Board but the first racialized person from any community to hold that position.
Reflecting on the steps the Board and the Service took 30 years ago, Williams spoke about ensuring the same training and education opportunities that were provided to white members of the Service were also made available to black members. Shortly thereafter, Williams said, black officers were promoted to ranks of Sergeant, Staff Sergeant and beyond.
Decades later, the Service has its first black police chief and bias-free policing is not only understood but actively practised across the TPS.
Chief Saunders told the PAC there was still more work to do and committed to keeping the community members informed of progressing recommendations.
For most, there was widespread optimism for the future of policing in Toronto.
“If we make it through with the recommendations, we will have the best police service,” said Roy Williams. “We just have to stay with it. Change doesn’t come easily.”
To review the PACER report in its entirety, and review the status of the recommendations, visit the website at tps.on.ca/pacer