By TOM GODFREY
Members of the community say more transparency is needed in the selection of a new Toronto Police chief and are calling for a job description to be posted online so all qualified residents can apply.
The call follows a vocal meeting by the Toronto Police Services Board recently during which about 20 community groups gave deputations in regard to the racial profiling of members of the Black community by police officers.
It was the first board meeting attended by new members Mayor John Tory and Councillors Shelley Carroll and Chin Lee.
Submissions were made by former councillor, Bev Salmon; former Toronto mayors John Sewell, of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and Barbara Hall, of the Ontario Human Rights Commission; the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) and others.
Hall said in a majority of cases the information obtained by police from stopped civilians are recorded and stored “with no greater justification than the purpose of general investigation.
“Such stops may lead to unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, intimidation, searches and aggression. Civilians stopped may feel that they are not free to leave, and indeed, are not told that they are free to leave,” she said.
The Commission has long insisted there is a “gross over-representation of African Canadians being issued contact cards in all Toronto neighbourhoods, including the patrol zones in which they live, and under the category of general investigation”.
The board says it hopes to have a policy in place by its next meeting on February 19, when outgoing Chief Bill Blair is expected to present guidelines for officer street contacts.
It was also decided that Dr. Alok Mukherjee will continue to chair the board despite calls by the police association that he step down.
The board is in the middle of a search for a new chief, that some claim is cloaked in secrecy and should include more input from the community.
There were four meetings between police and the community surrounding the selection of a new chief. There was also an online survey to seek input from the public.
Kingsley Gilliam, of the BADC, called for the board to adopt the anti-profiling “Street Checks and Community Contacts” that was approved last April and has not been implemented.
He accused Blair of dragging his feet in implementing the guidelines.
“Whoever is selected as the new chief will have an opportunity to improve the relationship between police and the Black community,” Gilliam told Share. “We will be closely monitoring the selection process.”
He said a description of the chief’s job, along with the qualifications and skills required, should be posted online so qualified candidates from the community, and across the country, can apply.
“There are concerns in the community that the process is not as transparent as we were hoping for,” said Gilliam. “There is a lot of interest in the selection of our new chief.”
He said there has not been an update since a search was announced last October.
“We have some good candidates and people need to know more about the job, about the requirements and criteria,” Gilliam told Share. “Toronto has the largest police force in all of Canada and people are watching.”
Cutty Duncan, of the Campaign to Stop Police Carding, urged the board to immediately put an end to the carding practice.
A Community Assessment of Police Practices (CAPP) survey that was conducted in the Jane-Finch area showed people wanted a chief to lead by example and be a role model; have administrative skills, solicit input from diverse voices and be sensitive to issues facing marginalized communities.
The incoming chief should have excellent communication skills, must be willing to stand up for the right thing, be tech savvy and fair, balanced and trustworthy, the survey said.
Gilliam and other community leaders stress that deputy chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders, both of whom are Jamaican-born, are well-respected and good contenders who should be considered for the top policing job.