City ombudsman launches probe after TTC fare inspectors pin black teen to ground

The city’s ombudsman has launched a review into an incident over the weekend during which two TTC fare inspectors tackled a black teen to the ground as he exited a streetcar.

Incident caught on video occurred Sunday afternoon on streetcar as it arrived at Bathurst Street

Police and TTC fare inspectors are seen on a video posted to Facebook holding a teen on the ground on Sunday. (Bethany McBride/Facebook)

The city's ombudsman has launched a review into an incident over the weekend during which two TTC fare inspectors tackled a black teen to the ground as he exited a streetcar.

Toronto ombudsman Susan Opler has launched her probe, and also requested information about the TTC's own investigation into the incident, which happened Sunday afternoon.

"I was very upset and disturbed when I saw the video," Opler told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Thursday.

"We don't know the whole story yet, and I think it's important that I say that. But what was depicted in that video was extremely alarming because what we saw was a young person, a young person of colour, who had been overpowered physically by two transit fare inspectors, whose job is to check proof of payment on a streetcar."

According to streetcar rider Bethany McBride, who posted a short video of the incident to Facebook, the young man was getting off the St. Clair streetcar at Bathurst Street when he was grabbed by a fare inspector. The teen pushed the TTC employee in response, McBride said. When the teen stepped off the streetcar, the same fare collector and a second one tackled the young man to the ground.

"As far as I could see he was being completely compliant," McBride told Metro Morning. "He was screaming that he was hurt and hadn't done anything."

Video shot by streetcar rider Bethany McBride shows two TTC fare inspectors pinning the teen to the ground 0:10

On the video, the young man can be heard saying: "You're hurting me" over and over.

Within minutes, Toronto police officers also arrive at the scene. The young man is eventually put in handcuffs.

"He looked really banged up, he looked humiliated, and he got escorted to the police car," McBride said.

According to Opler, TTC officials have told her the transit agency has a clear policy that fare inspectors are not to touch customers unless they are defending themselves. However, that policy was never formalized in writing. That process is underway, Opler said. 

"Transit fare inspectors should not be putting their hands on people unless they are defending themselves in an attack, Opler told Metro Morning.

Transit fare inspectors are "a customer service role," Opler noted, adding that they are a different type of employee from a transit enforcement officer, who are special constables that have a relationship with police.

A TTC spokesperson would not speak to Metro Morning about the incident or its investigation.

McBride, who shot the video, believes that she would not have been treated that way in the same situation, even if she had not paid her fare. 

"If I was getting off the streetcar nobody would have grabbed me like that, and I'm sure that even if they did and had I practiced fare evasion and not had a transfer, I would not have been detained or treated that way," McBride said. "And I know that the argument could be made that that's because I'm a woman, but it's not because I'm a woman. It's because I'm a white woman."

Susan Opler, the city's ombudsman, has launched a review of an incident that occurred on a TTC streetcar on Feb. 18. (Metro Morning)

Asked about McBride's statement, Opler said "she's probably right.

"As I said, the TTC needs to answer some very important questions."

Asked whether there should be outside oversight of fare inspectors, Opler said the TTC's own probe of the incident may bring that issue to the forefront.

"We should wait to see what the TTC says and what the TTC does as a result of that investigation," she said, "and those questions may very well arise as a result of that."

With files from Metro Morning