Toronto Police Data Reveals Black People Face Most Use of Force

Black and Indigenous Canadians were found to be overrepresented in the nearly 1,000 use of force incidents that took place with police officers in 2020.

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer at a press conference

Image via Getty/Steve Russell

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer at a press conference

Toronto Police have released new findings from its Race-Based Data Collection (RBDC) Strategy, and the data reveals that racialized people are over-policed.

People of colour were significantly overrepresented in nearly 1,000 incidents involving violence while interacting with Toronto police in 2020, while Black people were 230 percent more likely to have a cop point a gun at them when appearing unarmed than white people.

The data analyzed how race played a factor in officers’ “use of force” and strip searches in 2020, indicating that racialized people were targeted disproportionately. Black residents faced 39.4 percent of all police use of force incidents—about four times more often than their share of the population. 

The report stated that “Black, South Asian, and East/Southeast Asian people were more likely to experience higher uses of force compared to white people across all use of force incidents.”

Black people were also 2.2 times more likely to face “enforcement actions” compared to their share of the population. Indigenous people were overrepresented by a factor of 1.6, while Middle Eastern people were overrepresented by a factor of 1.3.

The data revealed that Black people were 1.5 times likelier to have a firearm pointed at them than white people, and South Asian and East/South Asian people 1.6 times likelier. Of the 371 instances when officers pointed their firearms, 149 of those times the firearms were pointed at Black people, and they were 2.3 times more likely to have a firearm pointed at them when no weapon was perceived to be on them.

They also found that from the 7,114 strip searches that took place in 2020, Indigenous people were 1.3 times overrepresented (relative to their presence in arrests) and Black and white people were 1.1 times overrepresented.

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer acknowledged that the data confirmed that racialized communities are disproportionately over-policed, specifically Black and Indigenous communities. “This data demonstrates the unfortunate realities of those experiences,” he said at a press conference. “As an organization, we have not done enough to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and unbiased policing.”

He then apologized: “For this, as Chief of Police, and on behalf of the Service, I am sorry and I apologize unreservedly. The release of this data will cause pain for many.  Your concerns have deep roots that go beyond the release of today’s report. We must improve; we will do better,” he said. 

People took to Twitter to react to the news, with many expressing dissatisfaction with the apology:

Toronto Police have identified 38 actions to address the use-of-force and strip search outcomes, which they’ve outlined below:

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