By TOM GODFREY
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is seeking changes to Toronto Police street check guidelines after a North York man claims he was carded and then beaten by officers.
Rohan Roberts, 42, who lived in the Jane St. and Finch Ave. W. area, was approached by officers in December 2014 outside his apartment building and asked for identification or if he had any marijuana, said his lawyer, Selwyn Pieters.
After running his name though a police computer system, the officers told Roberts he was free to go, he said.
As Roberts was walking away, he claims he said: “You guys always like to harass people.”
The remark led to an altercation with police and “Roberts was then allegedly rushed, handcuffed and dragged to a grassy area”, where Pieters said his client was repeatedly kicked and punched.
Roberts filed a complaint with police and was interviewed but no action was taken. Pieters has since written a letter to Chief Mark Saunders seeking action but has not received a response.
Police charged Roberts with assault with intent of resisting arrest and threatening death, but the charges were withdrawn last April 2015.
“He believes he was racially profiled,” said Pieters. “He believes this happened to him because of his race and where he lived.”
The OHRC, in a release last week, stated: “Mr. Roberts asserts that he was the victim of racial profiling and discriminatory use of force based on race.
“He sustained injuries that required treatment in hospital.”
Roberts filed a human rights complaint in June 2015 and is seeking $100,000 in damages. Individuals can only ask for a personal remedy, but with the help of the OHRC, Roberts can now seek systemic changes as well.
The OHRC is asking Toronto police to record race-based data during all civilian interactions and cases where they use force and develop an official policy and procedure on racial profiling.
The Commission “expects that implementation of a Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) policy and police procedure on racial profiling would include effective monitoring and accountability to the public”, the statement read.
Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane said the data would allow Toronto police to be held accountable.
“The OHRC has been working with the Toronto Police Service and the Board for over a decade on ways to prevent racial profiling and to deal with it when it happens. This case exemplifies how little progress has been made. Racialized communities can’t wait any longer.”
Mandhane said legal action is now sought so that officers and administrators are held accountable.
Officials of the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services are slated to introduce new guidelines to stop the racial profiling and carding by police of Blacks and other minority youth of colour in Toronto and surrounding areas.
Under the proposed legislation, officers will be required to tell those stopped that they do not have to talk to police and can walk away. Officers have to give their names and end street checks unless they are investigating specific criminal activity.
The Ontario government’s anti-carding laws are expected as early as next month. The new measures stem from complaints and protests by the Black community that led to public hearings last summer.
It is estimated that carding has resulted in information on more than one million young Black men being placed in police databases which can prevent them from getting jobs or housing later, even though they have not broken any laws.
No date has been set for the hearing.