The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has released a new report that found Black people were more likely to be victims of violence from members of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) than White people or other racialized groups.
A Disparate Impact: Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service found that Black people were disproportionately charged, arrested, struck, shot or killed by TPS members in comparison to other populations. Additionally, Black people were grossly overrepresented in lower-level charges where officers have significant discretion in deciding whether to lay a charge.
Specifically, the report found that although Black people represented 8.8 per cent of Toronto’s population in 2016:
- They represented 32.4 per cent of all charges reviewed
- They were 3.9 times more likely than White people and 7.1 times more likely than other racialized groups to be represented in all charges
- They made up 42.5 per cent of those charged with obstruction of justice (misleading a police officer, refusing to provide evidence, falsely accusing another person of a crime)
- They represented 35.2 per cent of those charged with driving offences where the officer may have observed the driver’s race before deciding to stop them or check their licence plate
- They were 4.3 times more likely than White people to be charged with cannabis possession and 3.2 times more likely to be charged with possession of other drugs, even though many studies have demonstrated Black people do not use drugs more than other racial groups
- Black males represented four per cent of Toronto’s population in 2016, but represented almost one-third (29.1 per cent) of all charges
Due to systemic racism
The report says the overrepresentation of Black people charged is due to systemic racism and racial bias by the TPS rather than higher levels of criminal activity by Black people.
The report also reviewed lower-level TPS use-of-force cases that did not meet the “serious injury” threshold to be investigated by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU). Between 2016 and 2017, the report found that Black people were five times more likely than White people and 11 times more likely than other racialized groups to be involved in lower-level use-of-force incidents. Despite representing 8.8 per cent of Toronto’s population in 2016, Black people represented:
- 1 per cent of police dog use-of-force incidents
- 5 per cent of controlled energy weapon (CEW or TASER) use-of-force incidents
- 1 per cent of police grounding/other force incidents (taking physical control of a civilian, “fight” or “violent struggle”)
- 7 per cent of police striking incidents (punching, kicking, kneeing, elbowing, slapping or using other “hard, empty-handed” techniques)
- 36 per cent of pepper spray use-of-force incidents
- 2 per cent of police firearm incidents (drawing a firearm in the presence of a civilian, pointing a firearm at a civilian, discharging a firearm)
Black people were significantly more likely than the general population to experience injuries from lower-level police use of force, including head injuries, broken bones, chest pain, cuts or lacerations, body pain or soft tissue damage, injuries from TASERs or pepper spray, and abrasions or scratches.
The report suggested racial profiling may explain why Black people were more likely to be stopped by police, increasing the probability of use of force interactions.
Substance use, mental health crisis encounters
According to the report, Black people were less likely than White people to be using substances or experiencing a mental health crisis during lower-level use of force encounters. While substance use and/or mental health issues may increase the likelihood that police will use force against a White person, race alone was the biggest risk factor in use of force against Black people.
The report found that Black people remained overrepresented in all use of force incidents (lower-level, serious injuries and deaths), even when factors such as neighbourhood crime rate, violent crime rate, household income, percentage of single-mother households, age, gender, community setting, civilian behaviour, mental illness, impairment and presence of a weapon were controlled. Race was the most significant predictor of whether an officer would use of force. This debunks several commonly-held beliefs, including that Black people are more likely to be involved in use of force encounters because they are more likely to live in high-crime neighbourhoods or have a lower median income.
In the report, the OHRC calls on TPS, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) and the City of Toronto to formally engage with Black communities, organizations and the OHRC to adopt legally-binding remedies to address and eliminate systemic and anti-Black racism in policing. The OHRC also calls on the government of Ontario to address systemic and anti-Black racism in policing through legislation that includes mandatory collection and analysis of race-based data across all policing activities as well as transparent and effective accountability processes.
The OHRC’s first interim report, A Collective Impact, was released in December 2018 and showed that between 2013 and 2017, Black people were significantly overrepresented in SIU investigations into serious injuries and deaths, including use of force (28.8 per cent), shootings (36 per cent), deadly encounters (61.5 per cent) and fatal shootings (70 per cent) by TPS members. Black people in Toronto were 19.5 times more likely than White people to be involved in a fatal police shooting.
The OHRC launched the public inquiry in 2017 to restore trust between Black communities and the TPS. A final report is expected by the end of this year and will include findings from community and police interviews, police procedures and accountability measures as well as recommendations to policing stakeholders to address racial discrimination.