The City of Toronto Ombudsman has found that a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) investigation into the actions of a few of its Transit Fare Inspectors was not sufficiently fair, thorough or transparent to justify its conclusions.
In response to calls from the public, the media, elected officials and the Ombudsman, the TTC began its investigation after a video posted to social media showed Transit Fare Inspectors and police officers pinning a young Black man to the ground at the St. Clair West and Bathurst Street streetcar platform in February, 2018.
“It was important for the TTC to get this investigation right,” says Ombudsman Susan Opler. “There was widespread concern about the incident, and 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 TTC released the results of its investigation in July 2018. With one small exception, it cleared the fare inspectors of any misconduct.
Susan Opler today released the report of her office's Enquiry, after an extensive review of the TTC's investigation. "The investigation did not adequately probe what happened during the incident and why," she says. “As one example, the streetcar’s video clearly shows that just two seconds after the young man got on the streetcar, one of the fare inspectors –- who was not checking fares— spoke to him. Why didn’t the investigators question the fare inspector about his claim that he only spoke to the young man after being stared at non-stop for a prolonged period of time?”
Ombudsman Toronto's Enquiry found that, while the TTC investigation had several good features, it also had a number of other problems:
- The TTC investigation did not consistently identify important facts in dispute and make clear findings of fact.
- It did not acknowledge and analyze the fact that fare inspectors are expected to disengage when there is a potential for conflict.
- The investigation applied an inappropriate standard of proof in some of its analysis.
- The TTC’s corporate structure does not adequately ensure the independence and impartiality of the primary internal investigator of complaints about fare inspectors.
- The TTC's expert witness for its investigation was not sufficiently independent and did not review all the relevant evidence.
- There was no analysis of evidence that might have suggested unconscious racial bias.
The Ombudsman did not investigate or make her own findings about what happened that day. The incident is the subject of a lawsuit. However, as a result of the Enquiry, the Ombudsman has made six recommendations that will improve how the TTC conducts future investigations. The TTC has agreed to implement all of them by the end of 2019, pledging that:
- It will take steps to ensure that all investigations are independent and impartial.
- Internal investigators will receive additional training.
- It will clarify the standard of proof investigators should use in making findings.
- Expert opinions will be appropriately independent and thorough.
Following broader discussions with the Ombudsman, TTC management has decided to develop and implement a comprehensive anti-racism strategy across the organization. It has also committed to changing the structure and culture of the Transit Enforcement Unit where the fare inspectors work, moving it from a culture of enforcement and compliance to one based on rider security, service, respect and dignity.
"The TTC exists to serve the public. Its effective operation relies on the trust and confidence of the millions of people who depend on it," Opler says. "I am encouraged that the TTC has decided to make these commitments. By doing so, it is taking an important step to advance its stated vision to be a transit system that makes Toronto proud."
Ombudsman Toronto’s Enquiry Report – Review of the TTC’s Investigation of a February 18, 2018 Incident Involving Transit Fare Inspectors and an Ombudsman Toronto backgrounder are available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.
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Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City administration and the fairness of City services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City, holding it accountable to the people it serves.