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Desmond Cole and Beverly Bain, of the No Pride in Policing Coalition, share a hug before speaking to the media outside police headquarters, in Toronto, on June 15.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

The release of previously unseen Toronto police statistics showing 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 has been seeking a “political solution” from Toronto’s mayor and council, who are facing a municipal election in the fall.

Defunding, and eventually abolishing, police would help ensure “they can’t hurt us like this any more,” he said.

“We didn’t need people with guns and Tasers and body armour and vests engaging in the kind of behaviour that’s in this report … and what this report should be talking about is that we still don’t need any of those things,” he said.

Moya Teklu, executive director of the Black Legal Action Centre, said police continue to fail to serve and protect Black people, “and yet, year after year, all levels of government continue to pour money into police services.”

“The solution is not to provide the police with more money for body scanners, or training,” Ms. Teklu said in a statement Wednesday. “It is to de-task the police and to redirect funding into those services that will actually protect and serve and increase the public safety of Black people.”

Abby Deshman, director of criminal justice for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said police “need to step back, and make room for social service supports and civilian led crisis interventions.”

In 2020, two Toronto councillors 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 favour 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.

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.

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.

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, Chief Ramer was asked about the calls to defund police and whether the force would consider off-loading 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,” Chief 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.

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

Toronto's Black residents received an apology from the city's interim police chief as the force released previously unseen race-based data showing disproportionate use of force on them, although the gesture was immediately rejected by some.

The Canadian Press

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