Thursday, October 1, 2009

Toronto police service continues the fight against racial profiling

The Toronto Police Service has come a long way since former Chief, Julian Fantino, fervently denied a 2002 Toronto Star report alleging that racial profiling had infiltrated the ranks of Toronto’s police force. They have now publicly acknowledged that racial profiling is a very serious issue that needs to be exposed and dealt with appropriately. However, it is clear that there still remains plenty of room for further reform.

Current Chief Bill Blair has been heralded as the driving force behind the Police’s recognition that racial profiling is a problem that needs to stop being swept under the rug and instead has to be addressed head-on.

When the Police Board began its search for a new Chief in 2005, it had made a commitment to hire someone with a commitment to diversity issues. It was decided that Chief Bill Blair was the man for the job.

"Racism is a human failing. Racial profiling can occur. We've acknowledged that right upfront and that has really enabled us to work with our community partners to do something about it," said Blair. This attitude has lead to a renaissance in their diversity department.

This war against racial profiling has been waged on two fronts.

On the one hand, the Toronto Police have overhauled their recruitment policies and have installed efforts to go door-to-door in ethnic enclaves in search of recruits that better reflect the ethnic composition of the communities in Toronto. These efforts have led to tangible results in terms of a greater visible diversity present in the force.

On the other hand, the police have tried to address some of the ‘big picture’ systemic problems by inviting the Ontario Human Rights Commission to review all the organization’s policies and procedures. This process is still ongoing.

They have also begun to embrace a community-based policing model which puts front-line officers into a prevention role rather than focusing solely on enforcement. They hope that this approach will in turn begin to chip away at the distrust that has formed within these communities when dealing with police.

While there have been great strides made by the Toronto Police in the past five years, in terms of addressing racial profiling, everyone involved admits that there is no quick-fix solution to such a wide-spread problem and the fight will be ongoing.

Posted by Martin Mendelzon (Law II)

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