Newly released race-based data renews calls to defund Toronto police force

The release of previously unseen Toronto police data that show disproportionate enforcement and use of force against Black residents is renewing calls to defund the police, two years after city council voted against such a proposal.

Following the data’s publication Wednesday, several anti-racism groups and civil rights advocates said community safety would be better achieved by redirecting police funding to social supports and services.

Desmond Cole, with the No Pride in Policing Coalition, said that instead of assurances that police will do better in the future, the group is seeking a “political solution” from Toronto’s mayor and council, who are facing a municipal election in the fall.

In 2020, two Toronto councilors introduced a motion to cut the force’s budget by 10 per cent – ​​about $107 million – and use that money for community services.

The motion was rejected in favor of a series of reforms proposed by Mayor John Tory, which included anti-racism measures and the implementation of body-worn cameras.

The move followed multiple protests that saw thousands of people flock to Toronto streets over several weeks to demand changes to policing.

Toronto police chief publicly apologizes for over-policing of Black residents

On Wednesday, Toronto police released statistics that show Black people in the city faced a disproportionate amount of police enforcement and use of force in 2020 and were more likely to have an officer point a gun at them — whether perceived as armed or unarmed — than white people in the same situation.

Middle Eastern people were also overrepresented when it came to enforcement and use of force, according to the report.

Latino and East and Southeast Asian residents, meanwhile, experienced less enforcement in comparison to their representation in the population but saw more use of force when they did interact with police.

james ramer
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer, pictured at police headquarters in 2020, apologized to the city’s Black community on Wednesday, after race-based data was released. Chris Young/The Canadian Press.

There were also racial differences in strip searches, with Indigenous, Black and white residents searched disproportionately compared with how many of them were arrested.

The numbers were the first to be released under the force’s race-based data policy, which was adopted in 2019 after the provincial government passed legislation requiring several public sectors to collect such information.

It also followed several reports on race and policing.

RELATED: 60% of Toronto police employees experienced or witnessed harassment/discrimination: report

Toronto’s interim police chief, James Ramer, apologized to the city’s Black residents Wednesday as the statistics were published, saying the force needs to do better.

During his news conference, Ramer was asked about the calls to defund police and whether the force would consider offloading some services to community groups.

“When we hear that discussion, what … the community’s talking about is reform and it’s talking about modernization of the police service,” Ramer replied.

“The reality is that we are engaged in a number of processes in terms of alternate service delivery and we want to be engaged in that,” he said, pointing to what he deemed “great advancements” in diverting calls that come into the police call centre.

Tory’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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