toronto police

This is how Toronto police plan to confront anti-Black racism

Following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other people of colour at the hands of police, the world is paying more attention than ever to the systemic racism inherent in law enforcement, as well as to how much money is allocated to authorities in cities around the globe.

In Toronto, protests have continued to pop up over the course of the past few weeks, with residents calling for more to be done about anti-Black racism and police brutality.

With the spotlight now on them, the Toronto Police Services Board has made some new long-term recommendations for changes to the force that it will be discussing at its upcoming public meeting on Friday.

Among the board's suggestions, in response to current events, are making its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel permanent; implementing mandatory ethics, inclusivity and human rights training for officers; and expanding the existing Mobile Crisis Intervention Team and "developing new community-based models" for responding to mental health and addictions crises.

The board is also advising that a "line-by-line breakdown of the Toronto Police Service’s existing budget" be made available to the public, and also that there be more public consultation about said budget moving forward.

Essentially, it appears that some of the advocates' demands are finally being considered — but as many experts have been quick to point out amid everything that's going on right now, attempts at police reform don't often result in enough real change.

But, it is still a step in the right direction that the board is looking at new options that could translate to real, tangible benefits for residents — especially things like deploying mental health experts and other types of frontline responders to incidents like the one that ended in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

"There is too long a history of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, discrimination, and marginalization in our city. These issues continue to face us, including in the context of policing... and despite our best efforts, we recognize that much work remains to be done," the board outlined in its meeting agenda, in which it vows to ensure fair and equitable policing in the city.

"There also must be recognition that law enforcement — whether reactive or proactive — is not the solution to many of the challenges our city faces, but rather, is only one piece of a multi-dimensional pie," it continued.

"Toronto’s community safety is a shared responsibility, and relies on a continuum of municipal, provincial, and federal services, community-based organizations, experts and everyday citizens who have the appropriate skills, abilities, and vested interest to implement strategies to make our city safer."

But, the document does not state that police funds would be divested to support these types of services or that the number of police in the city would be reduced to fewer than its current 5,400.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has expressed his support of the board's plans, but city councillors and citizens alike are saying that these types of reforms aren't enough and that real change starts with a substantial reduction in the TPS budget, which for this year is a staggering $1.2 billion.

A number of councillors, including Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam, have recently put forth a motion to defund Toronto police by at least 10 per cent, and are also asking that the use of deadly force and chemical/military-style weapons against unarmed civilians be stopped, that a new community accountability table be formed, and more.

Though any attempts to reduce anti-Black racism within policing and to bring about other types of community supports and responses are certainly better than none in the current climate. There is definitely far more that the TPS could promise the citizens it serves given the taxpayer dollars it receives each year.

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