The Toronto Police just released data that shows Black Torontonians who are visibly unarmed are 230% more likely to have a firearm pointed at them than their white counterparts.
Yes, visibly unarmed.
The perception that we are dangerous starts and ends with the colour of our skin. When you ask a non-Black person (notice I said non-Black because anti-Black racism runs deep in other POC communities) what a dangerous community looks like they often say “urban” which is code for Black. Toronto Police data shows that it’s not only in “so-called” Black or urban communities that Black folks are being targeted. The report says, “even when adjusting for the relative demographic makeup of different neighbourhoods of the city, people of colour face more police violence, even in places where they make up smaller shares of the population.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved (not happy) to see that the Toronto Police are getting real about the systemic issue that is their fault and that is costing our community, our men, women, boys, girls and non-binary folks. But in order for there to be accountability there needs to be change. But THIS DATA IS NOT NEW. Have we already forgotten that just two years ago (August 2020) the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a report showing that Black Torontonians are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police?
Where is the change? What will it take to change?
And no I don’t mean changing the college curriculum for future cops or including Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) into on-the-job training. That just makes cops better at justifying their actions, it does not fundamentally change the culture that makes it okay for the police to taunt and traumatize Black communities.
The change I’m talking about is to shake up the union, which has shown itself to be essentially an iron-clad ring that will protect the brotherhood no matter what the cost to innocent communities.
The change I’m talking about is to fire people IMMEDIATELY, no questions asked when they kill (or maim) unarmed Black people. There needs to be real accountability and we know that the threat of lost income works wonders for people trying to provide for their families.
And for Mayor John Tory who went on record to say, “he was confident the reforms announced already would help reduce systemic discrimination by police in the city.”
Pfffff. How Sway??!!!
Peep the reforms he’s referring to:
- New equity and inclusion training for new recruits
- Racial bias and equity training for all ranks of the service
- An audit of the existing police college curriculum
- A review of the existing use of force procedure
- The public release of use of force data on an ongoing basis
It’s giving…we very much plan to unconsciously bias our way out of this and never agree to defund or even come close to accountability.
That very same Ontario Human Rights Commission report from two years ago also pointed to the lack of accountability, specifically with the Special Investigative Unit (SIU). The SIU is the only form of redress that comes close to holding cops accountable for wrongdoing, but it actually has no teeth. The report pointed out that officers are not required to even respond to an interview request by the SIU, and many of them simply ignore those requests!
But as Craig Wellington, executive director of the Black Opportunity Fund points out, this data is still important to have. “There are still so many Canadians who don’t see how George Floyd relates to Canada and think this is an American problem. This data shows otherwise.”
Wellington points out that the whole reason the SIU was created, was in response to one of Canada’s most egregious cases of police brutality involving a Black Jamaican man named Lester Donaldson back in 1988. You can read more here, but the short story is that Lester was at home, sitting on his bed eating dinner. Five Toronto Police officers barged into his home and claimed Lester lunged at them with a weapon, then shot him dead. The weapon was the small paring knife he was using to eat his dinner. The officer was tried for manslaughter and acquitted. It turns out, that Lester had been filing complaints about those same officers who were in his home that day, saying that they were harassing him and he feared they would kill him.
Wellington himself says he’s experienced firsthand what these data points look like in real life. “As a youth, I’ve had police officers point guns in my face during routine traffic stops. I’ve had an officer try to arrest me on the driveway of my own home, accusing me of trying to break in. This is a reality for Black people. I was driving with a friend one day, and we were pulled over due to my headlights not being on bright enough. The car was searched while they made all kinds of derogatory comments at us. The officer shoved a ticket in my face asking me to sign it. When I refused to sign something without reading it first, he became agitated. I could see another officer kneeling near one of the car tires. When we were finally let go, after a few minutes, the car almost ran off the road because we had a flat tire. We found a knife slash through the side wall of the tire. And the worst part is, you know there’s nothing you can do about it. We got the ticket thrown out but there’s no justice to be found when it comes to police misconduct.”
Wellington says this data is just the beginning. “We need redress, recourse and recompense.”