On November 5, 2016 CivicMuslims participated in a public consultation on the Modernization of the Toronto Police Service (“TPS”), hosted by the TPS Transformational Task Force. The event aimed to share conclusions on the feedback that the Toronto Police received over the last several weeks of this public consultation series. The Chief of Police, Mark Saunders, was not on hand to participate even though he was initially advertised to be there. Saunders' absence and the mix-up on the start time of the event notwithstanding, the event got off to a good start with introductions from Superintendent Frank Burgen and the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, Andy Pringle. They shared that the Transformational Task Force was launched in February 2016 to examine recommendations related to the long-term reform of how policing is delivered in Toronto.
The content of presentation had various Task Force members speak to the five main areas of focus. The first was changing the 911 response system from a priority model of response to a primary model of response. This essentially means that the police wants to reduce the demand on officers in the field to focus on primary situations where there expertise and support is needed, and establish a referral system for non-primary situations in greater collaboration with internal city divisions. The second was incorporating greater technology into the delivery of services to improve access for civilians; for example, improving the online reporting system and equipping officers with smart technology. Another area of focus was, as Superintendent Burgen described, the ‘bloated budget’ of TPS. We heard from former councillor and mayoral candidate David Soknacki who, along with other community members, are examining this issue to explore efficiencies in operations.
Probably the greatest attention was given to the last two areas of focus which were the Neighbourhood policing and on facilitating a culture change in the TPS. The aim of a neighbourhood policing model was to ensure that all 141 neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto have a dedicated police conduit and dedicated police members that have an opportunity to develop deep and meaningful relationships within the communities they serve. There were a lot of comments and acknowledgement of the need for greater accountability for police misconduct, and the need to improve training and recruiting practices in facilitating a greater culture change.
The audience were civilians from all across the city of Toronto, and also representation from various community agencies with vested interest in the discussion taking place. It was clear that most people who attended the event had either themselves or had people in their lives who were impacted by the police. There was a young man who had a history of drug use and now works as a peer mentor to other youth struggling with addictions and mental health, who advocated that TPS incorporate Harm Reduction into their portfolio of supports for this specific demographic. There was a victim of abuse who shared her experience dealing with the police, and offered insight into her difficult reality and additional supports needed. There was a vocal and animated civilian that raised a number of interesting points on the allocation of police resources, and opportunities to incorporate best practices from around the world. There was also a touching moment when a mother whose son was killed as a pedestrian implored the TPS to adopt more stringent regulations on traffic and pedestrian control at large scale events. Finally there was an impactful statement made by a man who has experienced homelessness, who reinforced the need for action by police for the sake of progress, to which TPS Superintendent Burgen responded, “You can hold me personally accountable!” A CivicMuslims member even got in on the action, and you can watch the video link to hear how we chimed in on the conversation. Overall, it was interesting to hear all the opinions about how the TPS could improve. We can look forward to hearing more about the implementation of these recommendation in 2017.
It was indeed an informative event for YourVoice by CivicMuslims. Stay tuned for more events to come in the New Year!
By the numbers:
A number of impactful testimonials + a room full cautiously optimistic citizens + interesting and practical recommendations
an engaging YourVoice event on the Modernization of Toronto Police Services!