Think Toronto police could improve? Cop a feel of tonight’s Rethinking Toronto Police forum
In post-G20 Toronto, attitudes toward the police force seem to have changed drastically among a notable chunk of the city’s population. Claims that police tactics were too heavy-handed, secretive or outright prejudiced reflect problems that some communities have been experiencing long before the ill-fated summit, say organizers of tonight’s Rethinking Toronto Police forum.
But the event, hosted by the Toronto Police Accountability Commission, isn’t simply a response to the G20, organizer Anna Willats tells us. Her group has been putting the microscope to Toronto police practices for a decade now, and believes the mayhem of last year’s summit simply exposed a broader segment of society to some of the issues that have been plaguing marginalized communities for years.
“One of the things that was illustrated is an aggressive and intimidating police culture … arbitrary searches, multiple charges that don’t stand up in court. That kind of thing happens to some people in this city all of the time,” she says, listing racial minorities, homeless people and sex workers as common targets for such tactics. “[During the G20], people whose experience of the police has been more benign got a taste of what other people experience.”
The forum will examine four areas where organizers say there is room for improvement:
Finances: Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan will discuss options for reducing the police budget, which currently sits at about $930 billion, or one-tenth of the money the city spends.
Equality: York University’s Carol Tator will examine ways to handle profiling of various communities.
Police culture: The ongoing saga of G20 protester Dorian Barton has been a prominent reminder that it can be difficult to get police to inform on each other. “We want to explore that and see what kind of ideas come up to combat that ‘us and them’ attitude,” Willats says. This section will be hosted by Mariana Valverde from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Criminology.
Treatment of youth: Now that police officers are stationed in many Toronto high schools, and with 700 more cops are on the streets than there were 10 years ago, youth have more chances than ever to stumble into trouble with the law, and that could affect them for a lifetime. “It affects your ability to travel, to get a job,” says Willats.
Organizers hope to develop of set of proposals to bring to the Police Services Board and local politicians.
Rethinking Toronto Police starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 20 at the 519 Church Street Community Centre