By RON FANFAIR
Fed up with the negative culture of the young Black male in this city, former Toronto Police Service Board member and anti-racism advocate Hamlin Grange is urging Black police officers and the community at large to step up and become role models and mentors.
“We talk about the state of young Black men a lot, but I think it’s time we come up with something,” Grange said at a reception last Friday night to honour him for his service to the board. “My fear is that we are going to keep going down this road, constantly putting on band-aids without ever getting to the heart of the problem.
“It’s about having people respect, not just each other, but themselves. It’s got to start inside. Is there something we can do collectively to start a process? Is there something we can do to start instilling pride in some of these young Black men? We know what these challenges are because we see it every day on the streets…We are running out of time.”
Retired deputy police chief Keith Forde spearheaded the tribute to Grange, who joined the board as a provincial appointee in December 2004 and was reappointed three years later.
Grange conceived the idea for walker-friendly zebra crossings that the city implemented as a pilot project in August 2008, helped lead the board’s newly created mental health sub-committee and spearheaded the discussion that led to the creation of the Futures Program.
At its August 2005 meeting, the TPS board approved a motion for $100,000 to be diverted from its Special Fund for the next five years to kick-start the Futures Program which is focused on families and youth projects in police divisions in conjunction with the Mayor’s Panel on Community Safety and the Community Safety Secretariat.
“Hamlin understood that in order to effect change, you do it from within the structure of the environment as opposed to lobbing grenades in because the walls are just so hard to penetrate,” said new board vice-chair and city councillor Michael Thompson. “It’s so much more of an advantage to be on the inside making the decisions.
“The people of Toronto may not be aware of the fact that they owe Hamlin Grange a great debt of gratitude and appreciation because of what he has done. Policing has got much better from when I was a 13-year-old boy to today when I am now a member of the police service board.”
Board chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee highlighted Grange’s contribution to the Human Rights Project charter, a collaboration between the police and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, while deputy chief Peter Sloly said Grange’s grasp of diversity issues made him an ideal candidate to sit on the board.
“Hamlin came to the board with an understanding of what diversity is, what it isn’t, how it improves an organization like policing, how it can actually produce and measure value and how you replicate those successes,” he said. “He was one of the earliest people to get into that area and drive that agenda. His importance to the board and the leadership of the board chair and the other members of the board over the past six years represents a golden age in policing. We have really come a long way in that time.”
Grange said he took his job seriously, always thinking how his decisions would impact both police and members of the community.
“Coming in there, you realize that this is a very complex organization and there is a lot of politics involved,” he said. “It’s always my feeling that if you can keep the politics out of it, you are going to keep our men and women on the street safe and provide a safe city for our community. That was always at the back of my mind.
“Every time I made a decision, in the back of my mind, I always thought about the average cop on the beat and that woman standing out on her lawn and thinking how the decision I was making was going to impact those folks.”
Sloly made a presentation to Grange on behalf of TPS well-wishers while correctional officer Kenton Chance presented a plaque on behalf of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.