Law does not stop Toronto police from looking for officers behind ‘systemic discrimination,’ privacy commissioner clarifies


Ontario’s privacy commissioner says nothing is stopping Toronto police from looking at individual officers’ conduct towards racialized Torontonians.

That clarification contradicts statements made by police chief James Ramer following the release of much-anticipated race-based data – for the first time collected and analyzed by the force itself – that revealed Black and other minority groups were more likely to be subject to force and strip searches.

At a police press conference last week, Ramer faced questions about whether they would be looking at the data – which they were required by law to collect – on an officer-by-officer level.

“As is required by the Anti-Racism Act and the privacy commission as well, the data has to be anonymized,” Ramer said, apologizing for “systemic discrimination” within the force but claiming the law prevented him from using race-based data collected. from police use-of-force reports to investigate individual officers’ conduct.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) reached out to the Star saying they wanted to “clarify” those comments.

“The IPC has not stated that the Anti-Racism Act or the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act prevents a police service from using data – anonymous or otherwise – collected as part of a race-based data collection strategy to inform the supervision, training, and discipline of its police officers, ”the statement said.

“These laws are designed to protect people’s personal information rather than information that identifies an individual in a business, professional or official capacity.”

The statistics released last week revealed a stark racial disparity, including that Black residents were subject to officer force at rates five times higher than white ones, and four times their share of population.

Explaining why Toronto police will not be investigating whether individual officers are behind the trend, Ramer has also referenced a police board policy about the data collection. It states: “This Policy and its implementation should not be used for performance management or to identify individual Service Members, but, rather, as a tool to identify trends that contribute to professional development and organizational change. ”

Following the release of the data last week, community advocates and academics decried the lack of transparencysaying the data was not telling the full picture.

Black Lives Matter Canada organizer Sandy Hudson told the Star that stopping at a declaration of “systemic” racism was not enough.

“Systemic racism creates environments where overt acts are possible,” she said.

Notisha Massaquoi, who helped develop the Toronto police board’s policies on race-based data collection, added: “You have to show me, or show Black communities, how you’re going to be disciplining officers.”

The police board continues to meet Wednesday.

With files from Wendy Gillis

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