Human rights commission wants place at tribunal for officers accused of assaulting black teens
Dario Balca, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 7:56PM EST
The Ontario Human Right Commission says it wants to take part in a disciplinary tribunal being held for a group of Toronto police officers accused of assaulting four black teenagers in 2011.
The incident took place on Neptune Drive, in the area of Allen Road and Highway 401 on Nov. 21, 2011.
Security camera footage shows four black teens being stopped and questioned by a group of officers. Suddenly, the encounter turns violent with the cops pushing and punching the teens before arresting them at gunpoint.
The officers were responding to a call about trespassing. The teens, aged 15 and 16 at the time, were reportedly on their way to a neighbourhood tutoring program.
The commission now wants to take part in the tribunal and says the question of whether the alleged assault was racially motivated should be the focus of the hearings.
“This case is fairly extraordinary,” said Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner for the OHRC. “People still think that racial profiling means overt acts of racism, which it isn’t. It’s systemic.”
Lawyers for the officers involved don’t want the human rights commission to be part of the hearings and say it has no jurisdiction when it comes to police matters.
Police Chief Mark Saunders wouldn’t comment on the case, but said racial profiling is something Toronto Police Services as a whole is addressing.
“Well the important thing is, if we identify (a case of racial profiling), that we take immediate action,” he said. “We have figured out ways of looking at training our officers so they have a better understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are in the community.”
But residents in the Lawrence Manor community, where the arrest occurred, say it is easy to see racial profiling is still a problem when it comes to policing in the city.
“It’s still an issue,” said Ken Navarro, a black resident who has lived in the area for 36 years. “Honestly, I’ve got nothing against the cops… but why do you want to profile me?”
The arresting officers were part of the TAVIS unit, the Toronto police’s anti-violence initiative. They have since been moved to other divisions in the service.
It is still unclear if the tribunal will decide to give the OHRC a voice at the table.
With a report from Travis Dhanraj