Race-Based Data Policy Announced

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10 a.m. September 27, 2019

The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has unanimously approved a new race-based data collection analysis and public recording policy.

A man in TPS uniform at a podium
Chief Mark Saunders speaks to media regarding recent gun violence on August 9, 2019

Board member Uppala Chandrasekera, who, with Notisha Massaquoi, are the Toronto Police Service Board’s Anti-racism Advisory Panel Co-chairs, said the policy confirms the Board’s ongoing commitment to the elimination of racial bias and the promotion of equity, fairness and non-discriminatory police service delivery in Toronto.

The policy was approved at the September 19 Board meeting.

“We are grateful to everyone, members of the public, members of the Service and members of our anti-racism advisory panel who engaged with us and informed this important policy development process,” said Chandrasekera. “By bringing community voices into the policy development process, we recognize that transparency and accountability are critical in building community trust and engagement between the Toronto Police Service and the communities that we serve.”

Mayor John Tory, who is also a TPSB member, said the policy is a landmark procedure.

“This is something that’s a huge step forward for our police service,” he said. “It is the kind of thing which we expect from our police service which is to show national leadership. It has taken courage, persistence and sensitivity to take what has been, over time, a very controversial issue and find a way to bring together all the different people they consulted during the course of their work, including the men and women of the Toronto Police Service itself, and to fashion a policy that’s going to provide for better transparency, greater accountability and greater respect. I think that, in turn, it is going to help us with one of our most important tasks which is building up trust in the police. This is the right thing to do and I believe that they and we have gone about it the right away.”

Tory said the Board is prepared to act on what comes out of the analysis and data.

“That’s why we are collecting it so that it can be analyzed not only by us, but independently by objective third parties and then it presents us with opportunities to take action,” he said. “This represents a huge step forward in the building up of trust in policing and the elimination of any bias that may be identified. That, in the most diverse city in the world, is something that’s fundamentally important.”

Just over a year, the Toronto Police Service began work on a strategy to guide the organization in supporting the Ontario Anti-Racism Act.

“This work continues and we will be engaging the community and our officers over the coming weeks with the objective of launching our new Race-Based Data Collection Strategy in January 2020,” said Chief Mark Saunders. 

He thanked Chandrasekera and Massaquoi for the work they put in to deliver the new strategy.

“At the end of the day, when we get this right, what we will be able to do with the strategy is to identify and monitor and eliminate potential systemic racism,” said Saunders. “One of the messages that I heard at the Board meeting over and over again is the concern that this is going to be just another report out of many reports that have taken place in the last 40 years. I am here to say that it is not. It is a call for action.”

Saunders said the data collection, analysis and reporting will allow the Service to be informed, to recognize trends and to develop training and procedures to best equip officers to do their jobs safely. 

“With that, it will support our members in delivering intelligence-led, bias-free policing,” he said. “It will also eliminate speculation about our interactions with the community and allow both the public and the Service to learn from our experiences. And while we will meet all of the requirements of the Board’s new policy, including the collection and analysis of data, transparent reporting on findings and the development of action plans, we will be going one step further.”

Our work today to incorporate an anti-racism approach to our policies and procedures will have far-reaching and progressive impacts for generations to come

Saunders said Level 3 searches, commonly known as strip searches, will be part of the data collection and that the strategy will be led by the TPS Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights Unit which has seen a considerable investment in staffing of subject-matter experts. 

“With over 4,000 police agencies collecting race-based data worldwide, we will also learn from their Best Practices to inform the implementation of our own strategy,” the Chief said.

Saunders said this is a pivotal point in the history of Canada’s largest municipal police organization.

“Our work today to incorporate an anti-racism approach to our policies and procedures will have far-reaching and progressive impacts for generations to come,” he added. “Our modernization plan, ‘The Way Forward’, calls for us to meet the needs of a complex city, embrace partnerships and be where the public needs us. And our core values direct us to do the right thing, and connect with compassion. I am confident our new strategy will meet all of these principles.”

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