Re-imagining PolicingBy Matt Torigian, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public PolicyAfter almost seven years as a Chief of Police, I decided to step out of my uniform in 2014 for an opportunity to lead policing from a different chair. I was fortunate enough to spend more than four years as Deputy Solicitor General, helping shape and shepherd a new policy framework for policing and communities across Ontario. We can all take pride in the long-overdue legislative framework that will see Indigenous communities included in the new police act, designed to ensure equitabl police service delivery levels exist for all Ontarians.Recognizing Indigenous Police Services Boards, replete with requirements for adequate and effective policing, and a mechanism to address systemic funding shortfalls is a long-overdue “first” in Canada. Solicitor Generals, both past and present, deserve lauding for their leadership in bringing forward much-needed change and addressing underserviced and marginalized communities. Such was the mandating of community safety and well-being planning to every municipality in Ontario. The ideals of collaborative risk-based planning emerged from discussions and long-held tenets that upstream interventions have direct correlations to matching much-needed services with the most appropriate service providers.Some more controversial changes included the law colloquially referred to as the “Street Check Regulation.” Scripting rules for police officers when collecting personal identifying information from individuals was a direct response to complaints about racial profiling and arbitrary, biased policing. The merits of such a law continue to be debated by some while viewed as a best practice by others.Leaving the government to direct a global policing initiative as a Distinguished Fellow with the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy continues to provide me with another unique perspective on policing. Working in the Global Justice Lab with an array of international police services and governments brings with it a discipline of inquiry and diversity of thought. Information and data will always remain at the core of policing and community safety. Translating that into knowledge and wisdom for the benefits of the neighbourhoods and communities we serve is critical to our collective success. What I have learned in my work at the Munk School is that unconventional lines of inquiry provide much-needed insight into what works, what doesn’t work and for whom. Some would say it’s a process for continuous improvement.I have recently had the opportunity to step into the business world. Whether it is as Chief Strategy Officer for Niche Technology or a board member for a number of Canadian start-ups and enterprises, the value and methodologies of business development are clear and instructive.WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IN MY WORK AT THE MUNK SCHOOL IS THAT UNCONVENTIONAL LINES OF INQUIRY PROVIDE MUCH-NEEDED INSIGHT INTO WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN’T WORK AND FOR WHOM.A Means to VisioningThis brief description of my journey is purposeful. It provides an occasion to do as we all must do as leaders – engage in meaningful reflection as a means to visioning. Reflection is a necessary ingredient to charting our course. It allows us to think of our past successes and learn from our past mistakes and missteps. We all have them, professionally and personally.The overlapping of these past experiences causes me to think about the future of policing. In doing so, I wonder if it is staring at us in the mirror, be it the rear-view mirror or our side mirrors.When I started policing more than 35 years ago, I believed then, as I do now, that the purpose of policing is to protect the weak from the strong. If someone is weakened, they can become vulnerable. Vulnerability can lead to desperation. Nothing has changed. We still know that the “strong” we need to protect against might be a gun-carrying gang member or the evils of addiction. It can be persistent homelessness or a history of being abused. It can be a thief and a murderer or people who feel marginalized and forgotten.First-principles can take us to a place where some of this makes sense, such as (Sir Robert) Peel’s Principles. As an aside, historians note the actual authors were most likely Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the joint Commissioners of the then-newly formed Metropolitan Police.We are all familiar with nine principles. They still ring true today, such as the importance of citizens to take an interest in their community’s welfare, which sounds remarkedly familiar with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police’s (OACP) decades of work on community policing, community mobilization, community engagement, and now, as mentioned earlier, community safety and well-being; or the requisite for public approval and securing cooperation from the public, and specifically to maintain impartiality, which sounds strikingly familiar to guarding ourselves against bias and discrimination; and certainly the adage that public support diminishes proportionately with the use of physical force. I realize this is, to a degree, elementary. But let’s reflect some more.The Road TravelledIn response to the disproportionate number of racialized people being killed by police, Ontario’s government of the day set up the Race Relations and Policing Task Force. The recommendations were many. They dealt with police morale, use of force, governance, oversight, training, hiring practices, and equity-related matters. Sound familiar? The year was 1989.Criticism about the speed with which the recommendations were being implemented became quite loud and acrimonious. A Race Relations Advisory was formed. The Advisory came to fruition one month after rioters in Toronto protested against what they believed to be anti-Black racism and police use of violence. Complaints abounded about the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Peel’s Director, and the lack of criminal charges against police. Sound familiar? The year was 1992.There were other reports to follow. Justices Kaufman and Campbell each contributed to modernizing the methods and tools we now use for criminal investigations. The inquiries into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin and the identified errors during the investigation of Paul Bernardo each left us with a set of recommendations for new practices when investigating major crimes. The year was 1996.It was also in 1996 when the OACP became the leading voice in discussions about a new framework for policing. After considerable research, debate, and deliberations, the OACP, the Ministry, and police leaders alike embraced the Ontario Community Policing Model. The model provided police executives with a structure that endures to this day.The model focused on education, strategic planning, change management, and continuous learning. It recognized the involvement of communities in determining enforcement objectives and priorities. With a nod to the recommendations from the previous years’ task forces and inquiries, re-engineering of police organizations went “hand in glove” with technology enhancements and modern administration and human resource processes. The most controversial and perhaps most misunderstood dimension was the role that policing, police leaders, and police services play in the development of a community. The movement towards programs initiated and led by the community that contribute to the prevention of crime and address the root causes of crime required further development.At the core and consistent with the vernacular of the day was “community/police partnerships.” This involved a full and equal partnership between police and the community, with mechanisms to permit meaningful input to address public order maintenance and a community’s responsibility for their own safety and security. As mentioned, we have followed the thread of this through mobilization, engagement, and now community safety and well-being.A few years later, the concerns of racial profiling and subsequently “carding” led to many more reports, reviews, and investigations. Police leaders of the day chose to either push back against the methodologies that were used “against them” or pivot towards training without engaging in honest dialogue. Amongst only a few exceptional police leaders, the topic of data collection, specifically racebased data, was a forbidden zone.Perhaps the most ground-breaking change for policing, as part of the new police act, is the first-ever Inspector General. With a mandate to inspect against prescribed standards and the authority to receive police information and data, specifically race-based data, one objective for the Inspector General is to help improve policing and build community trust. The conversation in the early 2000s would have been much different had the Inspector General been in place. An impartial analysis of police data that used research and evidence to inform police pedagogy might have resulted in a different scenario.The examinations continued and continue to this day. In 2010, the G20 meeting in Toronto resulted in Justice Morden making recommendations regarding police governance and the role of police services boards. Justice Iacobucci reviewed police use-offorce after Sammy Yatim was shot and killed by police in Toronto, as did the SIU, the Ontario Ombudsman, and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. The Commissioner of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission continues to review and examine the disparate relationship between how police interact with racialized communities as opposed to non-racialized communities. Justice Tulloch made numerous recommendations into modernizing the SIU. Most recently, Justice Epstein addressed how police investigate missing persons with a particular focus on the LGBTQ2S+ community.The Future of PolicingThe new Police Act came about after the OACP requested a summit on the future of policing in 2011. The discourse taking place all over the world today is similar to our very own. Police governance and oversight, data and dashboards, fair and equitable policing, violence reduction, and community safety and well-being are the common themes. One might suggest the future of policing eludes our grasp. To this end, OACP leadership, with support from industry partners such as PwC and Niche Technology, are engaged in forward-leaning discussions by looking back and asking tough questions.With all of the knowledge we have gained through detailed scrutiny of past events, what wisdom can we glean that explains why so many recommendations are left unanswered? What information and data reveals the hesitance that might be at play as we address our communities’ concerns? This uncommon inquiry will ask selected police participants, leaders, governors, and elected officials to explain why they believe we continue to address similar problems decade after decade.Perhaps the implementation of our new policy framework, while embracing the paths set out in our past analyses, will provide the insight we need to re-imagine policing.Matt Torigian is a Distinguished Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and Senior Contributing Editor for the Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being. Matt is Past-President of the OACP and served as Chief of Police for the Waterloo Regional Police Service and, in 2014, was appointed Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Community Safety.He can be reached at
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