Toronto police chief acknowledges racial profiling challenges in wake of human rights report

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said his officers must be “extra cautious” to ensure that bias does not influence their behaviour in the wake of a report on profiling and discrimination.

In an interview Tuesday on Metro Morning, Saunders acknowledged that profiling and racism exist within the Toronto Police Service, but he argued that the problem is not unique to policing.

“It has to exist,” he said. “But what do you do to minimize it? What do you do to eliminate it?”

The OHRC’s interim report, released on Monday, found that black Torontonians were “grossly overrepresented” in cases launched by the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog.

Between 2013 and 2017, the OHRC determined that black people were nearly 20 times more likely to be fatally shot by police. Black civilians were also disproportionately overrepresented in police use-of-force cases and other fatal police interactions.

Saunders did not answer repeated questions about why that discrepancy may exist or acknowledge the findings as accurate. Instead, he said that police need to review the approach and methodology used by the OHRC.

Earlier Monday, Toronto police said they would accept the recommendations laid out by the OHRC, which included a call for police to begin collecting and publicly sharing race-based policing data.

Asked if police would begin to do so, Saunders said, “I have no problems with that.” However, he added that certain legal aspects of that process have to be explored first.

The larger problem, he said, is that segments of Toronto’s black community do not trust police, a situation that the force is actively working to remedy.

“Whatever we can do as an agency to improve on that relationship with the black community, I want that to happen,” Saunders added.

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