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Toronto Ombudsman criticizes TTC investigation of its fare inspectors

Toronto’s ombudsman is calling into question how the city’s transit system investigates itself after finding that an internal Toronto Transit Commission investigation into the physical restraint of a young black man by fare inspectors was unfair and lacked transparency.

“While the TTC’s investigation had many good features, it fell short in several important ways,” ombudsman Susan Opler says in her report.

The TTC has agreed to implement a series of the ombudsman’s recommendations to change its internal investigation process. The agency will also update its anti-racism policies and training before the end of 2019.

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On Feb. 18, 2018, three TTC transit fare inspectors forcibly held down a young black man on a streetcar platform at the corner of Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue West.

A video taken of part of the incident showed the man face down on the ground. He was pinned by fare inspectors and Toronto police officers.

In the video, the young man can be heard crying, “I didn’t do anything, though” and, “you’re hurting me, you’re hurting me, you’re hurting me.”

The man was reportedly released from custody when police found he hadn’t committed any offence.

The TTC investigated the incident and released a 95-page report in July, 2018, stating that there was not enough evidence to confirm that the officers had engaged in misconduct or treated the young black man any differently based on his race.

But the ombudsman found TTC investigators weren’t thorough. They didn’t ask enough questions, her report says, and didn’t take into account evidence that could have led them to uncover unconscious or conscious racial bias among the fare inspectors.

TTC investigators also relied on an expert witness who told them the use of force by one of the inspectors was appropriate. The expert was the owner of the company hired by the TTC to train transit enforcement officers.

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“The TTC should not have relied on him to provide an opinion about what happened in this case without directly addressing his ability to be impartial,” the report reads.

The flawed investigation erodes public trust in the TTC’s investigation process, according to the ombudsman.

“It was important for the TTC to get this investigation right,” Ms. Opler said in a statement. “The public needs to have confidence that the TTC will fairly, thoroughly and transparently investigate incidents like this and fix any problems it finds."

The ombudsman recommended systemic changes to the TTC’s investigation procedures, including increased training and independence for investigators.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the TTC has more work to do to regain public trust. In a statement, the TTC said it would apply the ombudsman’s recommendations and would also work to implement a series of anti-racism measures including implementing an anti-racism task force and updating anti-racism training for employees.

“We want to get it right,” TTC chief executive Rick Leary said. “We want to learn.”

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Gary Pieters, a black community leader in Toronto, welcomed the ombudsman’s report and the TTC’s updated anti-racism measures. He said there has to be systemic change within the agency.

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