City Council today unanimously approved the biggest change in police oversight in Toronto's recent history. It asked Ombudsman Toronto to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Service, giving the Toronto Ombudsman authority to review the fairness of Toronto Police procedures and programs.
"This is a groundbreaking step in independent, local police accountability on behalf of the people of Toronto," says Ombudsman Susan Opler. "It comes at a critically-important time, when public trust in police and policing institutions is low and calls for policing reform echo nationwide."
"Ombudsman Toronto’s oversight will be systemic," says Opler. "We will examine the real-life impact that the Toronto Police Service’s policies and procedures have on people in our city. We will recommend practical solutions to improve the fairness and accountability of the Toronto Police, and follow up to make sure they are implemented."
Through its initial consultations, Ombudsman Toronto has already identified several areas that could benefit from its review. These include Criminal Records Checks, the Vulnerable Persons Registry, Victim Services and programs designed to reach out to at-risk and marginalized communities. Ombudsman Toronto expects to identify other areas for review as its work proceeds.
Ombudsman Toronto will make the results of its investigations public, to promote transparency and maintain public trust.
To avoid duplicating the work of existing oversight bodies, Ombudsman Toronto will not investigate individual complaints about the Toronto Police Service (TPS), or how the TPS handles complaints. It will also not review the conduct of individual officers, focusing instead on the systemic impacts of TPS procedures and programs.
In keeping with Ombudsman Toronto's existing mandate, this new police accountability mechanism will be independent of the City, the TPS and the Toronto Police Services Board (TPS Board). The Ombudsman will have full control and discretion over investigations, public reports and recommendations. Ombudsman Toronto’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the TPS Board and the TPS will clearly define its role and authority to carry out this oversight.
The success of this new mandate will depend on the trust and participation of the people of Toronto, who will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the project. Ombudsman Toronto will be consulting with the public — including members of Black and Indigenous communities and other equity seeking groups — to better understand their needs, their hopes and their concerns.
For more information on Ombudsman Toronto's new oversight role, see Council agenda item CC31.1, Enhancing Policing Accountability through a Memorandum of Understanding with Ombudsman Toronto
An Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder is available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
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Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City of Toronto administration and the fairness of City of Toronto services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City of Toronto, holding it accountable to the people it serves.