Toronto

'A very historic moment': Police board approves race-based data collection in Toronto

Toronto’s police services board has approved a new policy that will direct officers to start tracking and reporting the races of people involved in certain encounters with police.

New policy to start being phased in this January

The new policy means Canada's largest municipal police force will track and report the race of people involved in certain police encounters as early as next year. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

Toronto's police services board has approved a new policy that will direct officers to start tracking and reporting the races of people involved in certain encounters with police.

In a news release issued Thursday, the police service said the new policy exists to identify, monitor, and eliminate potential systemic racism.

"It's a very historic moment," said Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

The new race-based data collection policy follows a key recommendation from a sweeping 2018 interim report on race and policing from the OHRC. The report found a black person in Toronto was nearly 20 times more likely than a white person to be shot and killed by police.

Now, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders will have to establish a procedure for collecting, analyzing and publicly reporting race-based data, with the goal of rolling out the first phase of the project by this January.

The first phase is set to collect race-based data from use of force reports — basically, whenever an officer uses force or a display of force (like pulling their gun) in an interaction with the public.

Mandhane says the policy is focused on officer perception during these interactions. 

"The officer will be asked to fill out a form that indicates what they believe the race of the person to be," she said.

"What matters when you're talking about racism is what an officer believes, not what the actual race of the person might be."

Notisha Massaquoi, co-chair of the anti-racism advisory panel of the Toronto Police Services Board, says the policy serves as a way to keep officers accountable in terms of how they relate and engage with communities.

"We'll be able to monitor that relationship. We'll also be requiring report back on the success of the policy being implemented and how relationships are changing," said Massaquoi.

Toronto police announced Thursday they also plan to include reporting on strip searches.

"This is a pivotal point in the history of the Toronto Police Service," the service's statement says.

"Our work today to incorporate an anti-racism approach to our policies and procedures will have far-reaching and progressive impacts for generations to come."

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