Adam: Police apologies are meaningless without accountability


Toronto leader apologizes, Ottawa pledges to fix problem, but minorities can’t escape feeling nothing will change

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For what it’s worth, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer has apologized after a report found a disproportionate use of force against the city’s black, indigenous and other minorities.

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The apology was particularly aimed at the city’s black communities against whom more force is used more often. But he may have been targeting black communities across the province because they share the same experience. The obvious question then is what use are such excuses when nothing ever changes.

« The results confirmed what, for many decades, racialized communities, particularly black and Indigenous communities, have been telling us… » Ramer said. “As an organization, we have not done enough to ensure that every person in our city receives fair and impartial policing. As Chief of Police and on behalf of the service, I am sorry and apologize unreservedly. We have to improve and we will do better. Haven’t we heard this before?

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However, the problem is not limited to Toronto. In Ottawa, another report showed a disproportionate use of force against blacks and other minority groups.

Black people were 4.8 times more likely to be victims of use of force by Ottawa police, while people of Middle Eastern origin were 2.4 times more likely to be victims of violence. a use of force. Aboriginal people were 1.8 times more likely to be subjected to the use of force.

Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell didn’t apologize for it, but he acknowledged the problem and said police needed to do more to root out the discriminatory practices. “We are happy to get this data. We’re not happy with where the data is,” Bell said. « It’s about identifying a problem in policing, in our society, that we need to address and that’s where our commitment lies. » Yes, their commitment, which means practically nothing.

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Here’s something to ponder: How come two reports issued in two different cities in Ontario by two different police forces come to the same conclusion? Why would black, indigenous and other minorities face more stops, arrests and use of force than white people? What is the explanation? It is no exaggeration to say that if such studies were done in, say, London, Hamilton, Winnipeg or Calgary for that matter, the results would be similar. And the reason is that police behavior is a state of mind. It comes from a police culture that sees black people, especially black men, as obviously evil, and should be treated as such.

Police brutality comes from this inherent assumption, and having such tarred black people, any interaction with them has to start with an iron fist, so to speak. Blacks and other minorities do not benefit from the doubt granted to most whites. That’s why when officers see a group of young black people gathered on a street corner, they assume they must be dealing drugs or committing some other crime and need to be confronted. It’s just not possible that these are young people who are just passing the time. This is why so many black people and other minorities are stopped by the police again and again, interrogated and humiliated when they have done nothing wrong. This mindset explains why black people in Ontario face a greater use of force than others.

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The 2020 reports from Ottawa and Toronto are not surprising, or even surprising. In 2018, an Ontario Human Rights Commission study of seven years of police interactions with black people in Toronto released a staggering report. The OHRC found that black people in Toronto were 20 times more likely to be shot by police than white residents. Twenty times ! You would think that would be a red flag, but nothing has changed. People shrugged. It was business as usual. You always hear about police reform, sensitivity training, new hiring practices and community engagement, but the violence never stops. It continues because the police are never held accountable.

Without accountability, it can be said with some confidence that if another use of force report is released next year, the results would be no different. And police chiefs would be out to make more meaningless excuses and pledges.

Mohammad Adam is an Ottawa journalist and political commentator. Contact him at

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