How the next Toronto police chief can commit to progressive policing


In their recent announcement regarding the selection of Myron Demkiw as Toronto’s next police chief, the Toronto Police Service Board issued a series of statements propagating the idea of Demkiw as a progressively transformative police leader.

He is therefore presented as a distinguished professional committed to “supporting the police service’s ongoing reform and modernization agenda” while “applying a modern vision of community safety that is progressive and community-centred.”

Observers who have been following local policing issues for several years might be excused for rolling their eyes in response to the board’s announcement because similar lofty rhetoric has been continually trotted out since 2005 when Bill Blair became police chief.

The main result has been anything but progressive when, for example, one reflects upon the realities of mass arrests during the G20 Summit; the grossly disproportionate targeting of Black community members in connection with carding; a multi-week crackdown in Marie Curtis Park that many regarded as indicative of homophobia; the anemic response to Bruce MacArthur’s murder spree in the Gay Village; highly co-ordinated attacks on homeless encampments; and racially disparate patterns of police violence.

The key question, then, is how, if at all, will the policing status quo change in Toronto under the leadership of Demkiw? Some answers will be provided in December when Demkiw is sworn in as chief, at which time he’ll provide an outline of his priorities. But in the event those priorities have yet to be finalized, here are three objectives he should consider if meaningful change is truly on the agenda.

  • First, the number of people charged with criminal offences should be substantially reduced. Last year, 25,216 people were criminally charged by Toronto police officers. And among those individuals, several thousand were charged with offences such as theft under $5,000, shoplifting under $5,000, mischief, drug possession, and administration of justice offences (e.g. violating court orders pertaining to curfews, alcohol consumption, etc.). Indeed, of all the people charged in 2021, approximately 1-out-of-5 — 5,450 people — were charged with administrative offences.

Given that many persons charged in Toronto are charged for minor offences, given the well-documented harms visited upon individuals facing criminal charges and given that “department discretion” and “diversionary programs” are officially recognized reasons for not laying charges, Demkiw should formulate annual charge reduction targets as a measure of progressive organizational performance.

  • Second, “no knock” raids should be abolished. As revealed in recent work by journalists and academics, such raids — often characterized by the use of battering rams, stun grenades and overwhelming police firepower — are known to inflict lasting trauma on people (including young children) present in targeted dwellings. First-hand accounts of police brutality and gratuitous property destruction are common, and, most disturbingly, “no knock” raids sometimes result in police killing civilians.

Far from being necessary, these raids are done on the basis of choice; accordingly, they have ceased in certain jurisdictions. The Vancouver Police Department, for instance, conducts zero “no knock” raids whereas police in Toronto are estimated to perform 200 per year, many of which are directed at the residents of low-income, racialized communities.

  • Third, Toronto police should, after four decades, finally become a Charter-compliant organization. A recent Toronto Star investigation titled “Unchartered,” and produced with the assistance of Western University’s Hidden Racial Profiling Project, uncovered hundreds of cases across Canada in which judges found police responsible for serious Charter of Rights violations. Almost 100 cases involved Toronto police officers and, in response, the force announced that every case would be subject to review.

From an accountability standpoint, however, the results of the review might be underwhelming considering that Toronto police spokesperson Connie Osborne has said that a judicial finding of a Charter violation “does not in and of itself equate to misconduct.”

In any event, the vast majority of violations are never uncovered in courts so it will be up to Demkiw to prioritize a verifiable organization shift in accord the force’s claim to uphold “the rights and freedoms of all people.”

Notably, the usual official excuses for doing nothing — “those changes would requirement legislative amendments” or “our hands are tied by the collective agreement” — don’t apply to any of the above proposed priorities. Demkiw can take them up if he chooses; we’ll all find out in December when he officially becomes chief.





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