Andrew Loku shooting prompts Toronto police board to create anti-racism committee
|Toronto Star 14 Dec 2017 at 19:24|
In the wake of the fatal Toronto police shooting of Andrew Loku, a Black mentally ill man killed in his home in 2015, the civilian police board is establishing an anti-racism committee ‚ÄĒ a direct response to a recommendation from this summer s coroner‚Äôs inquest into the controversial death.
In July, a five-member jury made 39 recommendations aimed at avoiding fatal police shootings, including that the civilian board form a committee to identify differences in how police interact with racialized people, including those in the Black community.
Loku‚Äôs three-week coroner‚Äôs inquest raised questions about the role anti-Black racism may have played in Toronto police Const. Andrew Doyle‚Äôs decision to pull the trigger; among the testimony jurors heard was that implicit bias can make a , heavier and more dangerous.
But precisely who will sit on the anti-racism committee was subject to criticism at a police board meeting Thursday, after police board chair Andy Pringle announced he would lead it alongside Notisha Massaquoi, a Black community advocate and executive director of the Women‚Äôs Health in Women‚Äôs Hands community health centre.
‚Äú(Massaquoi) brings an approach grounded in trauma-informed anti-racism and anti-oppressive practice,‚ÄĚ Pringle told the board, adding that the process of choosing other members, no more than 12, would begin after hearing from the public.
The inquest recommendation provided only a vague description of who should be on the committee, saying it should include subject matter experts, representatives of the Toronto Police Service and members of racialized communities, including the Black community.
Aseefa Sarang, executive director of Across Boundaries ‚ÄĒ an organization that provides mental health support for racialized communities in Toronto, and had served Loku ‚ÄĒ raised concerns about Pringle being co-chair of the anti-racism committee, saying that it ‚Äúcircumvents an open and transparent process‚ÄĚ and will result in ‚Äúan imbalance of power.‚ÄĚ
It would also create ‚Äúa sense of the committee being surveilled,‚ÄĚ contrary to the intent and spirit of the recommendation, Sarang told board members.
Community member Ruben Charles, too, questioned Pringle‚Äôs role while also raising concerns that no resources had been allocated to the committee in order to compensate members of the public who may want to participate.
‚ÄúAre people just expected to volunteer? For folks who are racialized I think we all know that that makes it a lot harder for people to participate,‚ÄĚ Charles said.
Board members in response passed a motion to allow for the creation of an interim steering committee consisting of Massaquoi and a to-be-determined nominee put forward by the Andrew Loku coalition, which consists of more than three dozen groups including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Anti-Black Racism Network, the Canadian Mental Health Association and more.
That steering committee will then recommend to the board other potential members of the committee, as well as develop its terms of reference and suggest financial resources.
While board members discussed the implementation of the Loku recommendations directed specifically to the civilian police board, the Toronto Police Service has yet to respond to the 15 recommendations directed at the service. That includes the divisive recommendation that conducted energy weapons, better known as Tasers, be expanded to all front line officers.
Pringle said the Toronto police response is expected in February, if not earlier.
Activist and freelance journalist Desmond Cole also made a deputation to the board on the Loku recommendations, but prior to starting asked that a moment of silence be observed for Loku, the 45-year-old father of five from Sudan whose death has prompted a slew of changes to police oversight, training and more.
‚ÄúWe have, through this board process, very much overlooked the value of Andrew‚Äôs life. The fact that he was a father, a survivor of a lot of incredible violence before he came to this country, and that now he‚Äôs gone.‚ÄĚ