Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto police union, has hit back at the Toronto Star for articles the newspaper ran on racial profiling of Blacks by Toronto police officers by drawing attention to the newspaper’s hiring policies.
While these are two separate issues, McCormack makes an interesting argument.
The Star has been focusing on the issue of racial profiling of Blacks by Toronto police officers for some eight years. The recent series is its second in which the newspaper used police statistics to show that Blacks are stopped up to three times more often by Toronto police officers than Whites; are detained more frequently and are more likely to be held overnight.
The articles were well received in the Black community, especially by those who have experienced what they felt was biased treatment by police or know of people who have. Of course, the opposite was true in police circles. When the first series was published, then police chief, Julian Fantino, literally boycotted the Star for more than a year.
Current chief, Bill Blair, has been more diplomatic. For one thing, his people were more cooperative with the Star’s researchers this time around and top brass were more open to discussing the issue. There also has not been a boycott of the newspaper, as far as we are aware.
McCormack challenges the Star to compare its record of the hiring of minorities with that of the Toronto Police Service. That is a tall order. Very few organizations in this city (if any) could match the TPS’s minority hiring practices. And that is not just at the junior levels. The TPS has been exemplary at promoting minorities through the ranks up to and including the rank of deputy chief. In fact, two of the four deputy chiefs are Black.
On the other hand, the Star, while it has done a commendable job overall, has failed miserably to reflect this increasingly diverse city among its staff. That, we should add, is also true, as far as we know, of the other mainstream print media. The television stations have done a much better job, as least where their on-air personalities are concerned, in reflecting the diversity of their viewership.
McCormack, son of former police chief, Bill McCormack, has deduced as a result of his own investigation, which he admits was not scientific, that only 1.5 per cent of the Star’s employees are Black and just under 10 per cent are visible minorities. And he says that almost 18 per cent of TPS employees are visible minorities.
Deputy police chief, Peter Sloly, who was born in Jamaica, told of a recent editorial board meeting at the Star in which the subject of police profiling was raised. He too used the occasion to point out what he saw as a double standard noting that of all the newspaper’s representatives at the table, only one, a journalist, was Black.
One does not excuse the other, however. Profiling based on race has no place in a modern police service in a city as diverse as Toronto. And the Star has done well to bring this to public attention.
Hopefully, the exposure will encourage the brass, including the senior Black officers, to take a closer look at the way some of their policies may be executed, or ignored, as the case may be.
And the mainstream media need to look at their hiring practices, not just to ensure that their hiring is equitable, but as sound business and editorial policy.
As the city’s population becomes more diverse, the challenge for mainstream media is to be able to reflect that diversity among their staff which should improve the way they report on the various communities and, in so doing, perhaps change the way in which they are perceived by those on whom they are reporting and who they may be depending on to support their advertisers and purchase their subscriptions.