The third in a series of four community conversations on the Toronto Police Service’s Race-based Data Collection (RBDC) Strategy was held virtually on December 1.
Because of the pandemic, the consultations have shifted to a virtual platform.
In September 2019, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) unanimously approved a new Race-based Data Collection analysis and public recording policy that 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 the city.
The first set of community consultations took place a year ago.
A total of four public town hall meetings were held in Alexandra Park, Black Creek, Regent Park and Malvern.
Deputy Chief Peter Yuen re-iterated that community engagement represents an integral part of the strategy.
Between October 2019 and February 2020, a series of 69 engagement opportunities led by 30 community organizations brought over 880 members of diverse communities to voice their opinions.
“All across the city, trends and themes emerged from our engagement sessions,” said Miha Dinca-Panaitescu of the Service’s Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights team. “With cautious optimism, members of various community groups recognized the RBDC strategy as an opportunity to identify and address racial disparities and develop cultural awareness amongst police officers to enable better interaction with diverse groups.
“We heard the need for the Service to acknowledge its mistakes and harm caused before embarking on new data collection. Community members hope that the RBDC Strategy will help improve the relationships between residents and police, especially in communities that experience tensions and tragic events involving police.”
Dinca-Panaitescu said community members consistently voiced their expectation to stay engaged throughout the entire process of the RBDC Strategy implementation.
“Participants expect the Service to create a process that allows them to stay informed and provide feedback at key stages of the Strategy,” she noted. “We also heard about the need to reach certain segments of the community -- new immigrants, youth, persons with mental health issues, and people with more frequent contact with police such as those experiencing homelessness and those working in the sex trade.”
The first phase of the strategy started at the beginning of the year.
“We began collecting race-based data for use of force incidents, using the forms that have been prescribed by the provinces and strip searches,” said Yuen. “The data is being collected using an officer’s perception based on prescribed categories.
“We want to keep these conversations going and continue to gather your insight so we can make the right decisions when it comes to your data and take the necessary steps to identify and eliminate systemic racism in the delivery of policing services.”
Yuen said there has been significant feedback related to officers’ training.
“It included how critical it is for Service members to understand the purpose and foundational concepts of race and identity-based data collection to promote bias-free policing and enhance community trust,” he said.
The Service, Yuen added, is developing a training curriculum that builds on community feedback.
“We will roll out the training across the entire Service to enable transformation from within,” he said. “We have implemented multiple training delivery methods because we know this topic is too important for just online learning. We have delivered technical briefings for those members and supervisors who need to understand the legislative requirements in a deep and meaningful way. We have implemented Indigenous experiences, Anti-Black racism and implicit bias training into the yearly requirement for all police officers.
“Our Senior Officers have received training on issues of equity and inclusion, as well as the race-based data collection and we are providing both online and in person training for our members. As the strategy evolves and we continue to engage with our communities, our training program will evolve and grow as well.”
Dr. Mai Phan, also a member of the Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights team, said Race-based data analysis helps to support training and monitor and evaluate and improve policies, procedures and practices.
“For trusted results, analyses have to be done in an open, transparent and fair way,” she said. “We are creating an analysis framework to guide our approach to looking at the data and we need your advice.
Community members can provide feedback by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 15, 2020.
The last in the series of four conversations takes place on Thursday, December 3, 2020 from 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Watch it live on the Toronto Police YouTube Channel.