Implicit bias and anti-black racism the core of Andrew Loku inquest findings

The jury that crafted the 39 recommendations coming out of the inquest into the police shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015 made it clear that racial bias is prevalent across society and needs to be addressed.

Activist says that with 39 recommendations, Loku's death was "hopefully not in vain"

Andrew Loku, 45, was shot by police on July 5, 2015 after he refused to drop a hammer he was carrying.
Andrew Loku, 45, was shot by police on July 5, 2015 after he refused to drop a hammer he was carrying. (Handout photo)

The jury that crafted the 39 recommendations coming out of the inquest into the police shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015 made it clear that racial bias is prevalent across society and needs to be addressed.

"Racism permeates the society and they recognized that," Kingsley Gilliam, one of the founding members of the Black Action Defence Committee, said outside the court building Friday.

Loku, 45, was holding a hammer and walking toward police when he was shot and killed by Const. Andrew Doyle on July 5, 2015.

Doyle and his partner, Const. Haim Queroub, were responding to a call about a man with a hammer threatening to kill someone. 

The interaction between the police officers and Loku lasted some 21 seconds before Loku was shot twice.

Implicit bias and anti-black racism

At least 17 of the recommendations deal with recognizing and addressing implicit bias and anti-black racism, including:

  • Mandating annual regular training and use-of-force re-certification to include anti-black racism, as well as implicit and unconscious bias.
  • Requiring officers to complete the Implicit Association Test.
  • Establishing a provincial standard for the collection of race-based data and police interactions.

Loku was originally from South Sudan and the jury heard testimony that he suffered from PTSD.

His death sparked protests by the group Black Lives Matter.

Outside court Friday, Gilliam said it was "inspiring" that anti-black racism was acknowledged in the recommendations as a problem.

Kingsley Gilliam, founding member of the Black Action Defence Committee, was pleased with the jury's recommendations and said they recognized "anti-black racism, racism and institutional racism are problems."

Gilliam has called on the "Toronto Police Services, the Toronto Police Services Board, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Ministry of Health to take very specific actions to address these issues and we are going to hold their feet to the fire."

He is threatening legal action if all the recommendations are not implemented within a year. 

Lawyer Selwyn Pieters, also with the BADC, said: "We are on the cusp of real change, because that change has to happen or else."

Femi Otitoju, the founder and training director for Challenge Consultancy, educates people about how to recognize and address their own unconscious biases and the dangers of acting on them.

She has worked with governments, police services in the United Kingdom and media outlets, including the CBC.

"If you have a brain, you have a bias," Otitoju said.

Implicit or unconscious bias may be formed by personal experiences, but they also come from our educators, people who raise us and the media, Otitoju said.

"There tends to be an emphasis on, a focus on black people as the perpetrators of crime and in particular black men as the perpetrators of violent crime," she said.

That then feeds an implicit association in everyone, "including our law enforcement officers," Otitoju added.

In a sit-down interview with CBC Toronto before the recommendations were released, Toronto police Deputy Chief Michael Federico discussed implicit bias saying: "It's a societal issue and we recruit from society."

Deputy Chief Michael Federico on crisis communications training

6 years ago
Duration 4:44
Dwight Drummond speaks to Toronto Police Deputy Chief Michael Federico on crisis communications

He said that Toronto police "have recognized that implicit bias may detrimentally affect an officer's decision."

He said the service is taking steps to mitigate against it with "fair and impartial policing."

That includes formal training around recognizing and responding to implicit bias and sensitivity training, "so that we become more informed about circumstances that people live in and the type of people we police," Federico said.

De-escalation and Mental Health

Several of the recommendations also addressed the need for more de-escalation training and followup.

"Andrew could still be here today if the police had simply followed the minimum type of training that they received," lawyer Howard Morton said.

Doyle and Queroub testified at the inquest that they were both shouting demands at Loku to drop the hammer and that he ignored those demands.

Const. Andrew Doyle is seen on June 14, 2017, the day he testified at the coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew Loku. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC News)

One of the recommendations is to "emphasize" to officers in that type of situation to use "alternative methods of communication, de-escalation, disengagement and containment." 

The jury also called for annual and regular training that includes negotiation, de-escalation and crisis communication. The jury's recommendations also call for the training of officers to include "trauma informed approaches."

Aseefa Sarang, executive director of Across Boundaries, which provides mental health services for people from racialized communities and where Loku was a client, said: "I'm actually feeling like his death was hopefully not in vain."


Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto.

with files from Lorenda Reddakopp