rick shank toronto police

Toronto cop accused of killing two Black men makes almost $200K per year

A veteran cop holding a position of power with the Toronto Police Service makes over $190K per year, all despite killing two Black men in the 1990s.

Journalist and activist Desmond Cole called out the rocky career of Rick Shank, a superintendent and current head of the TPS Professional Standards unit, in an expose published Wednesday, and it's got people talking.

Cole explains in his piece that Shank served as a TPS constable in 1993 when he shot and killed 20-year-old Ian Clifford Coley, later avoiding criminal charges. Four years later, Shank shot and killed another Black man, 31-year-old Hugh Dawson, reportedly firing ten bullets. Shank was charged with manslaughter and found not guilty in 1999.

Cole writes that in addition to these killings, Shank's career has faced "accusations of assault, home invasion, kidnapping, the planting of evidence, the filing of bogus charges, and arbitrary detentions, none of which seem to have resulted in any formal consequences."

So what did Shank get for all of these marks on his career? Promotion after promotion, including his most recent step up the career ladder in 2021, where he was elevated to head of the TPS Professional Standards unit with a generous salary of $190,391.19.

Considering the role of Professional Standards is to investigate officers who harm civilians (like shooting two suspects to death), it's not too difficult to see why Cole's article outlining Shank's history and promotions has triggered outrage.

Racism is a known problem in policing, and it was just eight months ago that then-Chief of Police James Ramer issued a frank but long-overdue apology to the Black communiy, admitting that systemic racism has indeed been a longstanding problem among the TPS ranks.

The article details an account from one alleged victim who claims he was violently assaulted by the officer in Scarborough 30 years ago. The victim was shocked to learn of the officer's current role on the force and his very large salary.

What's truly surprising about the revelation is that it's not really a revelation at all. All you have to do is search the internet for Rick Shank's name to find archival news reports covering those 1990s on-duty killings.

Perhaps the most damning account of Shank's history comes from the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC).

It states that in the 1997 killing of Hugh Dawson, the victim was seated at the steering wheel of his car, buckled into his seatbelt, when he was struck with a total of nine bullets at almost point-blank range into Dawson's body.

Firearms examiner Michael Clarke revealed at the 1999 trial that the "muzzle of the pistol was about one to three inches from Dawson when it was fired, leaving powder burns on his clothing."

Though officers claimed Dawson grabbed Shank's and other officers' weapons, TPAC's bulletin on Shank's promotion states that none of the victim's prints were found on the gun.

So people knew about this, and though Shank was indeed cleared of fault by the SIU and courts for the two incidents, one can only wonder how the legal system and court of public opinion — in the changing climate of the 2020s — would have been less forgiving than the music Shank faced in the 1990s.

A TPS representative tells blogTO that "Any loss of life is tragic and is felt deeply by all involved.  Regarding the on-duty matters you've written about from the 1990s,  Shank was found to have acted within the law and no charges were laid by the independent Special Investigations Unit, and, for the second matter, he was acquitted after trial."

"Superintendent Shank has served as a police officer for over 30 years with an exemplary record and no misconduct. Over the course of his career, he has demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism, ethics and leadership, and has a record of service to the community."

Lead photo by

Frank Yang

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