On Monday May 17, 2010, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Toronto Police Service and Toronto Police Services Board celebrated the formal conclusion of Human Rights Project Charter. Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, and Toronto Police Services Board Chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee composed the Sponsor Group and oversaw the execution of the Project Charter.
Commenced in 2007, the Human Rights Project Charter was a joint initiative between the OHRC, TPS and TPSB. The objective was to reform the institutional culture of the Toronto Police Service, integrating an equity lens in all policies, procedures, training and community relations. The Charter also served as a public interest remedy to numerous human rights complaints against the Toronto Police. Under the leadership of Chief Bill Blair, the TPS says it is committed to being an organization free of bias and discrimination, and hopes the community will have “more confidence” in its handling of issues such as racial profiling.
Publicized achievements include:
• Revised human resources policies on recruitment, selection, promotion and retention;
• New training for all TPS staff and officers on “Human Rights 101” and “Racially Biased Policing and Racial Profiling”; and,
• Complete overhaul of internal investigation of complaints, integrating a human rights code analysis.
It is unknown if the changes celebrated will have a sustainable impact on police culture.
Although the organizational overhaul of Toronto Police is impressive, a comprehensive public report on the status of the Charter has yet to be released. Furthermore, Charter representatives failed to provide a sufficient answer as to how TPS will measure the success of the changes per division/officer. This is of significant concern to activists and residents considering the suspicious death of Junior Manon at York University, who was chased and allegedly assaulted by Toronto officers on May 5, 2010. The Special Investigation Unit is currently investigating Mr. Manon’s death.
Hamlin Grange (of the Board), and other members of the project spoke to work that remains to be accomplished including public education. In regards to buy-in by Toronto Police’s 8,000 employees and City residents, Mr. Grange insisted that most employees support change if they can understand it, and stakeholders will appreciate change if it is substantive.
The Human Rights Project Charter appears to be a promising step forward for Toronto Police Services, the City and policing in general. The partnership between the Commission, Force and Board illustrates “risky relationships are worth forming when the objective is social justice”, as Commissioner Hall stated. A culture of transparency and bias-free policing can only result if the changes initiated by the Charter are practiced by the entire Force and appreciated by residents. In the end, success of the Charter will be best exemplified by the quality of community relations between officers and the communities they serve.
Posted by Nicole Myers (Windsor Law I)