By TOM GODFREY
The first Annual Human Rights Report looking into the Toronto Police Service is being compiled and expected to be released in March before Chief Bill Blair leaves office.
Many community residents were hoping the long-awaited report would be released in time for Black History Month in February to be discussed and serve as a guide in our relationship with police.
Most of us are unsure what the report will contain. If anything, it is expected to shed some light as to where we stand with policing as a community. The data collected will surely help a new Chief as he or she is settling into their post at 40 College St.
The report was supposed to be completed in 2012 when the force adopted a City-sanctioned human rights policy and reporting standards set for all its agencies, boards and commissions.
The document is expected to set the tone for police race relations in Toronto and possibly help us and police repair fences in the wake of allegations caused by racial profiling and carding against members of the Black community.
Blair is a decent guy who has been called a friend of our community. But, not all neighbourhoods benefitted from his goodwill.
A community satisfaction survey of 31 Division last summer found large swaths of Jane and Finch residents who said they have been carded by police, have little trust in the force and would not report a crime.
As expected, the Chief blasted the report as being anti-police. Blair, to give him credit, has vowed that he will end carding, but just as he is leaving office. The matter will be discussed at a board meeting in March.
The rights report may not all be good news and perhaps that’s why the Chief has been dragging his feet on its publication for three years.
Blair, at a board meeting last week, was ordered to provide the report by March. A copy will be forwarded to the City Manager for circulation to councillors. The information is largely used for planning or strategic purposes.
Information contained in the report allows city staff to compile statistics and set the amount of resources to be allocated to the force, or other agencies, in its next budget. All City agencies and boards are required to file an annual Human Rights Report.
Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, Dr. Alok Mukherjee, said the Board established the policy that requires Blair to develop a Human Rights Strategy that sets clear targets and objectives for the force.
“We have never had a human rights report filed to us,” he said. “It is a requirement that has been adopted for three years.”
Dr. Mukherjee said the report will include “performance measures with respect to the relevant procedures and practices to be used to assess the effectiveness and impact of the implementation of the Board’s Human Rights Policy”.
Also called an “Audit of City Performance in Achieving Access, Equity and Human Rights Goals,” the policy was adopted by the City following a 2008 Auditor General’s report and recommendations.
The process tracks access, equity and human rights initiatives and accomplishments by the City’s agencies, boards, commissions and corporations and reports back to Council on a periodic basis.
We are a large city with many communities and a new Chief, and newly-elected Mayor John Tory, will require the most-recent human rights trends, data and statistics to guide them in their daily decisions.
We also need the information as a community to know where we stand and how we can better improve our relationship with the “Boys in Blue”.