By TOM GODFREY
Toronto city councillor and Police Services Board vice-chair, Michael Thompson, is troubled by allegations of racial profiling and carding that are concerns in the community and says a lot of work is being done to deal with the issues.
“It is a very troubling situation,” Thompson told Share in an interview. “It is a very perplexing and difficult matter.”
Thompson, who has been noticeably quiet on the controversial issue, said Toronto lawyer Frank Addario has been hired by the Board to help develop guidelines to address profiling and carding concerns expressed by the community.
Addario, who was named one of 25 Most Influential Lawyers in 2010, is billed as one who represents individuals and corporations who are under investigation or the target of enforcement proceedings by police and regulatory agencies.
Thompson, who represents Ward 37 Scarborough Centre, said he has never been racially profiled or carded by police, but has heard from others who claim they were.
“I have never had a problem with the police,” said the lone African Canadian member of the Board and Toronto City Council. “People have told me that they had encounters with police.”
Board chair Alok Mukherjee is of south Asian descent.
Thompson said the racial profiling issue is causing a rift between the force and some members of the community.
“It is a problem and it is very disconcerting,” he said. “The Board and the community are saying that there should be checks and balances.”
No date has been set for new Board guidelines that will set policy on how police are expected to interact with the public during encounters.
“This whole issue has been going on in policing forever,” he said. “There has to be a policy on accountability on how evidence can be used versus the rights of a person.”
Thompson said police have always been conducting checks on people they encounter and he does not expect the practice to stop even if there is a ban on racial profiling.
“I have a feeling those checks will continue under another name or whatever no matter what,” he said. “Police forces have been doing this forever.”
The issue of racial profiling against members of the community by Toronto Police came to the forefront following a series of reports in the Toronto Star that shows Blacks were disproportionately targeted for checks by police in some communities.
“There has to be a way to monitor officers as to how many stops they made and how they gathered information,” he stressed. “We have to make sure there is accountability and transparency in how we approach these issues.”
He is not sure if he supports the return of a ticket system, in which officers issue a receipt with their name and appeal mechanism to members of the public after an encounter.
Thompson said the testing of body-worn cameras by officers can lead to a decrease in complaints against police since all parties will have to be accountable.
Complaints against police fell as much as 80 per cent when the cameras were tested in other cities.
The use of the technology is among 74 recommendations made by an inquest last week that looked into the deaths of three mentally ill people who were shot dead by police in Toronto.
And, the devices could have also provided evidence to investigators into the confrontation and death of Sammy Yatim, 18, who was shot nine times by police last year on a TTC streetcar.