Inclusive Workplaces and Fairness in Community SafetyKey lessons learned developing Toronto’s Equity StrategyBy Grace Ryu and Svina Dhaliwal, Toronto Police ServiceOver the last number of years, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has been on a journey of transformation to drive comprehensive police reform and changes to organizational culture.It has engaged in many initiatives to foster community trust and demonstrate that the Service is a progressive, bias-free and inclusive place to work. Examples of such work include:• Establishing the Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights unit in the Service and civilianizing equity and anti-racism training at the Toronto Police College.• Mandating training on Black experience, Indigenous reconciliation, gender-diverse and trans inclusion, sexual harassment, and active bystander training.• Publishing the Know Your Rights Campaign.• Partnering with the City on a whole-of-system approach to community safety and well-being through the SafeTO program.• Collecting, analyzing, reporting and acting on race and identity-based data collection – internally in our HR processes and externally reviewing interactions and arrests.• Making available alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for internal complaints.• Overhauling constable selection and promotional processes.While much has been accomplished, more needs to be done. In December 2023, the TPS released its inaugural Equity Strategy, which has been built on expert findings and recommendations in response to significant events and studies over the last decade, in addition to the ongoing work the Service has been engaged in to advance fairness, transparency and inclusion in policing. This Service-wide Equity Strategy seeks to:• Respond to calls for action demanding change to our society and public sector institutions;• Commit the Service to do the work needed, and create transparency and accountability for driving systemic change toward fair and unbiased policing and improving trust, in and within the Service;• Acknowledge gaps and challenges, as evidenced most recently by reports on race-based data collection and workplace climate;• Take a proactive, progressive and collaborative approach; and• Develop one consistent Service-wide Strategy for Service members and communities to work with and hold the organization accountable.The Equity Strategy is grounded in a thoughtful, evidence-based process that reflects best practices, the expertise of key partners and stakeholders, and the voices and experiences of Service members and diverse communities.EQUITY STRATEGY AT A GLANCEThe strategic framework articulates the following elements:• Priorities: Focuses on four initial priorities, driven by historical and current challenges faced by the Service and informed by data that identifies where the disparities are greatest: confronting anti-Black racism; supporting Indigenous cultural safety; fostering 2SLGBTQI+ inclusion; and cultivating a respectful workplace.• Vision: Grounded in a comprehensive strategic framework that brings together two complementary perspectives: inward looking and outward looking.Inward looking: It means that the changes TPS needs to make must start from within – the way the Service treats and leads its members, the way members treat each other, and the internal structures created.Outward looking: This represents the changes TPS needs to make in how the Service interacts with its communities and partners, and respond to their needs.• Goals: Seven strategic goals are articulated to achieve the strategic vision; they are interconnected, mutually reinforcing and support both inward and outward-looking dimensions of the Strategy.• Actions: Mapped to each of our strategic goals, we have identified an initial set of 16 key actions. These actions are further broken down by specific sub-actions tailored for each of the four priorities in the Strategy.• Outcomes: Aspirational outcomes are presented as the result of TPS’s pursuit of the strategic goals, which its progress can be measured and reported.IMPLEMENTATION PLANSThe implementation plans are presented as four standalone documents, each dedicated and tailored to the priorities of this Equity Strategy. Although there may be some overlap, all proposed implementation plans should be considered simultaneously for a comprehensive understanding of theStrategy as a whole. All sub-actions presented in the Equity Strategy fall into one (or in some cases, a few) of the following major themes: HR programs, policies, processes and procedures; training and capacity building; listening and understanding; reconciliation and community relationships; monitoring and accountability; and data and technology.KEY LESSONS LEARNEDSeveral lessons were learned along the way and would be applicable to many, including equity-related practitioners, management professionals and overall organizational strategy practitioners.UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENTS – MAKE IT A PRIORITY AND ENGAGE EARLYWhile we took an evidence-based approach in developing the Equity Strategy, conducting a thorough review of other key reports and recommendations, best practices and literature, it was important to ensure key internal and external stakeholders’ voices are heard as part of the process and that we have considered their feedback , especially when we are striving to make transformative and lasting change. As this strategy is both for Service members and the communities we serve, it only makes sense that these voices are heard and considered.PRACTICE CULTURAL HUMILITY AND ASSUME A POSTURE OF LISTENING AND LEARNING:This approach has been critical when engaging with diverse stakeholders as we developed the Equity Strategy. It includes acknowledging that we do not have all the answers nor understand everyone’s unique lived experiences, and the need to listen to every feedback or comment humbly and with a willingness to learn and ensure that everyone feels heard.This is not to say we did not have constructive discussions on managing expectations of stakeholders and the feasibility and timelines of some of the action items. For example, especially when engaging with external or community partners who may not be as familiar with the operations of policing, we have had to learn to be nimble, pivot and even go back to the drawing board if needed.PROGRESS MUST GO AT THE PACE OF TRUST:True engagement takes time, intentionality, patience and willingness to co-design and co-develop. Much of the Strategy’s content, organization, layout and design have shifted shape and matured through the critical discussions and feedback that we have gathered throughout its development.Active listening and learning meant investing time and attention with diverse stakeholders. Even though it took more than three years to develop and release the Equity Strategy, it was important to not be led by and chase after pre-set timelines or deadlines, but rather meeting diverse community, policing and academic stakeholders and partners at their own pace and terms.CHANGE DOES NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT. FOR CHANGE TO BE SUSTAINABLE AND EFFECTIVE, THERE MUST BE PROPER PACING, INFORMATION SHARING, EDUCATION, CAPACITY BUILDING AND MULTI-SECTOR AND COMMUNITY COLLABORATIONS TO SET THE GROUNDWORK FOR SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE CHANGE.BE AUTHENTIC AND GENUINE:People pick up on authenticity. This means asking questions, reaching out for help and requesting follow-up conversations with diverse stakeholders when needed. When people pick up on the fact that we are being authentic and genuine in our approach and intentions with the work, that we are trying to create a Strategy that will keep the Service accountable to doing better, they become encouraged to help champion this work with us.One of the first steps to going about doing this has been to acknowledge and name the issue; that systemic racism, discrimination and deepseated barriers and marginalizations do exist, they are very real and have long-lasting effects and consequences which affect all public systems and institutions.COMBATTING ANXIETIES AROUND CHANGE:Like any other change management strategy, the changes prescribed in the Equity Strategy may be uncomfortable for some. This is where leaders must come to the table to engage with and support their teams in navigating these changes; hence, we are taking an all-of-Service and all-of-Command approach with the Strategy. Every part of the organization, along with the diverse communities we serve, must come together for the successful implementation of this work. It is imperative that we have the members and community partners’ support, and for that to happen, there needs to be clear communication and knowledge sharing around why these changes are imperative.BE REALISTIC WITH IMPLEMENTATION PLANS:Change does not happen overnight. For change to be sustainable and effective, there must be proper pacing, information sharing, education, capacity building and multi-sector and community collaborations to set the groundwork for successful organizational culture change. Understanding what “completed” looks like and what measures need to be in place, continuing to co-design and co-develop with the community, and securing funding and resourcing along the way takes time.STRATEGY MUST BE LINKED TO ORGANIZATIONAL PRIORITIES:The Equity Strategy must be integrated into the rest of an organization’s corporate strategy, planning and prioritization processes. Examples of this alignment include incorporating equity-related actions to management goals, highlighting specific Equity Strategy-related efforts in the budgeting process and tying progress to the organization’s reporting processes.It is the first time TPS has developed an organization-wide Equity Strategy.Building a truly equitable police service and achieving the goals set out in this Strategy requires a multi-year effort of collective work , practice and course correction informed by learnings on the go, and ongoing internal and external engagements and collaborations, including the Service’s diverse policing partners and stakeholders.To read more about the Equity Strategy and follow its progress, please visit: tps.to/equity-strategy.Grace Ryu is the Inclusion Lead for Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights with the Toronto Police Service. She can be reached at grace.ryu@torontopolice.on.ca.Svina Dhaliwal is the Chief Administrative Officer for the Toronto Police Service. She can be reached at svina.dhaliwal@torontopolice.on.ca.
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