Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) Executive Director and Chief of Staff Ryan Teschner is the recipient of this year’s Canadian Association of Police Governance (CAPG) Excellence in Police Governance Award.
The national award recognizes leaders for significant contributions, commitment and guidance leading the enhancement of civilian police governance in Canada.
Since being appointed to his role in June 2018, Teschner – working with the Toronto Police Service, its communities and stakeholders – helped spearhead the development of first-of-their-kind policies for race-based data collection and the use of body-worn cameras that address issues of police accountability, systemic racism and discrimination.
Under his leadership, the Board has broadened its Mental Health and Addictions Advisory and Anti-Racism Advisory Panels’ mandates and expanded their roles in advising the Board which, with his guidance, entered into an innovative Memorandum of Understanding with Midaynta Community Services to address significant community-police relations between the Service and Somali communities in the city’s northwest.
Teschner has also led the development of the 81 policing reform recommendations that the Board approved in August 2020. Police boards, commissions and services across the country then modeled their own approaches to police reform on the Toronto Board’s.
“The implementation of these reforms is one of the most important pieces of work for our Board, infusing all that we do and the collaborative, community-focused approach we take,” said TPSB Board Chair Jim Hart who nominated Teschner for the award. “The 81 recommendations are not only a road map for specific change, but they also paint a clear picture of the future we envision and inspire the Toronto Police Service’s leadership to aspire further and higher in developing additional programs and strategies to achieve this goal. This process of reform is a journey and the Board office, under Ryan’s leadership, continues to work with the Service, the City and community partners to drive important and evolving change.”
Hart said Teschner has contributed extensively to positively and effectively changing the police governance landscape in Toronto and across Canada.
“Ryan’s progressive, community-centred and visionary leadership has moved civilian oversight of police forward by focusing on collaborative, evidence-based policy development that incorporates the values and expectations of the public in a meaningful and significant way,” he said. “He recognizes that his vision for a Board that is more engaged and more involved requires investment in human resources. His work has been focused on the crucial task of ensuring the Board has access to professional and expert advice. Under his leadership, the Board’s staff has professionalized and grown to include two additional advisors dedicated to stakeholder relations, strategic analysis and robust policy development. He has also consistently focused on meaningfully developing the working relationship between the Board Office and the Chief’s Office.”
Ryan’s progressive, community-centred and visionary leadership has moved civilian oversight of police forward by focusing on collaborative, evidence-based policy development that incorporates the values and expectations of the public in a meaningful and significant way
Teschner’s professionalism and expertise, Hart added, is rooted in his vast experience in leading large scale and impactful initiatives.
“He has built a body of work that has left an indelible mark across both the City and the province,” noted the Chair. “His impressive leadership as a police governance authority with expertise in developing community safety policies and legislation that are accountable, measurable and achieve the intended outcomes is punctuated by his firm understanding that a modernized approach to governance and oversight must meaningfully make space for and incorporate government partners, residents, community organizations and key stakeholders. He has proven repeatedly that he is incredibly skilled and adept at managing all of these pieces with grace.”
In accepting the prestigious award, Teschner acknowledged the CAPG for providing its members with opportunities to collaborate in tackling the modern challenges and creating space for progressive thinking, and the ‘small, but mighty team’ he works with daily.
“This award recognizes the new oxygen we have breathed into police governance in Ontario and, as this honour, suggests right across Canada,” he said. “There are Boards and Commissions across this country that are working hard daily to bring the voices of communities into policing and ensure that police services have the tools and resources they need to help enhance the safety of the communities they serve. What often is not understood is the role that civilian governance and oversight play in helping bridge divides and making sure that community members’ priorities are reflected in their police services.”
Teschner paid tribute to retired Ontario Court of Appeal Associate Chief Justice John W. Morden – his friend and mentor – who headed an independent civilian review of police, board and government conduct in the lead up to and during the G20 summit in 2010.
The 425-page report was released in June 2012.
“Judge Morden’s review and report concerning the policing of the G20 summit remains the most significant examination of the role of police boards and commissions,” he said. “It created the framework for police governance under which we operate today.”
On Morden’s invitation, Teschner was the review’s lead counsel.
“That was what really got me into the world of police governance,” said the U of T Governing Council member and two-time ‘Canadian Lawyer’s To 25 Most Influential’ nominee. “What became clear to me and a lot of people as a result of that Review was that the role of police boards was misunderstood and police boards misunderstood their roles – and, because of this, they were not fulfilling the promise that independent civilian governance represents to the public we serve. Given the work I had done provincially in enhancing police oversight and with the G20 Review, the stars aligned for me to make a contribution to the role I play here. And, I am grateful to work every day with a team that is committed to these same ideals and really moving the dial on civilian governance in policing.”
The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Teschner completed his Bachelor of Arts degree with High Distinction at the University of Toronto in 2002 and his law degree at York University’s Osgoode Hall three years later.
Called to the Ontario Bar in 2006, the married father of two young children was a Senior Associate at Heenan Blaikie and Gowlings, practicing in the areas of regulatory, administrative, constitutional and commercial law, including appellate litigation and judicial review.
He also served as Special Counsel to the Deputy Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services and at the Ministry of the Attorney General where he successfully designed and led the development of Ontario’s new policing and oversight legislation as well as other significant initiatives that modernized policing in the province.
Teschner’s passion for social justice and law was inspired by his family, and he credits his mother for showing him a path to turn this inspiration into action.
“When I was really young, she showed me an article about Kids Help Phone that had just launched a student volunteer board,” said Teschner. “I became very involved in that program and started to hear about things that, at that time in my life, I knew very little about like child abuse, homelessness, drug abuse, mental health issues and bullying. I felt that I wanted to spend my life and my career doing what I could to make those things better. All of this opened a new world for me. All of this work is my fulfilling the Jewish tradition of Tikun Olam, which tells us that we all have an obligation to help repair the world.”
Teschner was a founding member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet and appointed by then Mayor David Miller to the Mayor’s Community Safety Advisory Panel, chaired by then Chief Justice of Ontario Roy McMurtry. He also served as Counsel to Ontario’s Independent Police Review Director.
He is the second TPSB representative to win the CAPG Award.
Former Chair Alok Mukherjee was bestowed the honour in 2016.