City ombudsman finds TTC probe into arrest of black man by fare inspectors fell short

The city’s ombudsman says that a TTC investigation into allegations of misconduct and racial discrimination by fare inspectors was “not sufficiently fair, thorough or transparent to justify its conclusions.”

“The investigation did not adequately probe what happened during the incident and why,” Susan Opler said in a statement that accompanied the release of her office’s report on Thursday.

“It was important for the TTC to get this investigation right,” she said.

In February 2018, three TTC fare inspectors tackled and pinned a black man to the ground on a streetcar platform near St. Clair Avenue West and Bathurst Street. The man, who was 19 at the time, was forcibly detained before eventually being released by Toronto police officers who had arrived at the scene.

A widely-shared video of the incident was posted to Facebook, sparking calls for a probe into whether the inspectors “used necessary force and whether anti-black racism was a factor,” the ombudsman’s report said.

The TTC and the Toronto Police Service both conducted separate investigations into the incident. Police decided not to lay criminal charges against the fare inspectors.

The TTC’s 95-page report, released in early July 2018, found insufficient evidence of any misconduct, with one exception. Namely, one of the inspectors had smiled at the man during a particularly tense verbal interaction.

The transit agency’s analysis relied heavily upon two videos captured by security cameras.

While the ombudsman’s office said parts of the TTC’s probe were adequate, it also found a “number of other problems,” including:

  • The TTC investigation did not consistently identify important facts in dispute and make clear findings of fact.
  • It did not acknowledge and analyze the fact that fare inspectors are expected to disengage when there is a potential for conflict.
  • The investigation applied an inappropriate standard of proof in some of its analysis.
  • The TTC’s corporate structure does not adequately ensure the independence and impartiality of the primary internal investigator of complaints about fare inspectors.
  • The TTC’s expert witness for its investigation was not sufficiently independent and did not review all the relevant evidence.
  • There was no analysis of evidence that might have suggested unconscious racial bias.

The ombudsman’s report made six recommendations, which the TTC has said it will try to implement by the end of this year. The steps include:

  • It will take steps to ensure that all investigations are independent and impartial.
  • Internal investigators will receive additional training.
  • It will clarify the standard of proof investigators should use in making findings.
  • Expert opinions will be appropriately independent and thorough.

TTC CEO Richard Leary said in an email statement that the agency is developing a “broad and comprehensive anti-racism strategy” in the wake of the ombudsman’s report.

“We are moving without delay to implement a system-wide anti-racism strategy, aimed directly at preventing racial profiling, and covering all aspects of the TTC’s operation. We need to ensure that all of our customers feel safe and secure when dealing with our employees,” Leary said.

The TTC will hold public consultations with “impacted communities” this year, establish an anti-racism task force and update its training programs for fare inspectors and special constables, Leary said.

In March 2018, the man who was forcibly confined launched a civil lawsuit against the TTC, the three fare inspectors, the police officers who attended the scene and the Toronto Police Services Board.

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