Activists want Toronto police board meetings moved to city hall after alleged assault

Activists are calling on the Toronto police services board to immediately move its meetings from police headquarters to city hall.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit looking into incident that took place before last meeting

D!ONNE Renee, centre, alleges she was assaulted inside Toronto police headquarters as she was on her way to speak to the police board. The SIU is investigating, but Renee and other activists aren't waiting to demand that the monthly meetings be moved. (John Rieti/CBC)

Activists are calling on the Toronto police services board to immediately move its meetings from police headquarters to city hall.

D!ONNE Renée, an activist and former mayoral candidate, alleges she was physically and sexually assaulted by an officer moments after entering the building ahead of the board's Sept. 21 meeting.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which probes allegations of death, serious injury or sexual assault involving police officers, is looking into what happened.

Reporters awaiting the start of the meeting heard Renée's screaming and saw her on the floor of the lobby surrounded by officers moments later. She was not arrested and later made it to the meeting, where she tearfully spoke on several matters.

On Wednesday, Renée and nearly a dozen supporters, including Desmond Cole, spoke to reporters at city hall setting out six demands, including that the police force suspend the officer allegedly involved in the incident, and that the police services board immediately move its meetings.

"Why do police control the building in which meetings about their accountability are being held?" Cole asked.

In recent months, the police board has become a flashpoint for heated arguments centred on race, and at several points demonstrations by groups like Black Lives Matter Toronto have forced the board to put its work on hold.

Mayor John Tory says the board is in "active discussion" about moving the meetings, suggesting they could be held at city hall or other locations.

"We are responsive to the notion that meetings should happen at other places than police headquarters from time to time." he told reporters gathered outside his office.

However, Tory didn't rule out having future meetings at police headquarters, nor commit to a timeline on when the meetings would move to an alternate location — suggesting only it could be possible by the end of this year or early in 2018.

Previously, the police board did meet at city hall, and many other agencies, like the TTC, do the same.

Tory says if the police board does move, additional security — likely in the form of metal detectors and bag searches — would come along with it.

"We are dealing here with the senior command of the police service," he said.

"They have an obligation to keep everybody else safe, and we have an obligation to keep them safe."

Cole wants that stopped, suggesting police unilaterally moved to add the security checkpoints at its doors. He's calling for them to stop "warrantless searches" and "arbitrary detention" at its doors.

CBC Toronto contacted Toronto police on Wednesday to ask about the potential of moving the meetings, but has yet to receive an official statement.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.