Know Your Rights
The Toronto Police Service is committed to delivering fair, equitable and bias-free policing to the communities it serves. As an organization, we are committed to addressing issues of racism and racial profiling throughout every rank and role in the Toronto Police Service. We also know that positive interactions between the police and the public are critical to enhancing trust and accountability. When police and community work together they are able to solve and prevent crime, protect victims, and create safe, livable neighbourhoods. This is achieved when everybody feels they can speak to police officers but, for some, this is not part of their lived experience. For members of the city’s Black, Racialized and Indigenous communities, experiences include disproportionate levels of stops and the arbitrary collection of personal information. Clear and transparent communications about some of the more common ways police officers interact with the public will lead to better understanding for all involved. Please take the time to watch the video series below.
In 2012, the Chief’s Internal Organizational Review examined all aspects of community engagement, leading to the creation of the Police And Community Engagement Review committee. After internal and external consultations, the PACER committee submitted a report with 31 recommendations intended to address bias-free delivery of policing services. Recommendation #4 was the creation of an advisory committee, comprised equally of Service members from all areas of the organization and community members and partner agencies invested in improving relations between police and the city’s Black communities. The PACER committee dedicated hours to ensuring the appropriate and thorough implementation of all 31 recommendations and continues to advise the Service on matters of fair and equitable delivery of policing.
Police Reform and PACER 2.0
In 2020, the Toronto Police Services Board approved 81 recommendations for police reform in a report entitled “Police Reform in Toronto: Systemic Racism, Alternative Community Safety and Crisis Response Models and Building New Confidence in Public Safety.” These recommendations established a roadmap for comprehensive policing reform in Toronto, and include building new community safety response models, various initiatives to address systemic racism and concrete steps to improve trust with our communities.
As a result of the Board’s 81 recommendations, Chief Ramer reconvened the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) as PACER 2.0.
Specifically, recommendation #70 reads: “Direct the Chief of Police to develop and execute a multi-faceted "know your rights" campaign before the end of 2020, on the basis of consultation and collaboration with various stakeholders, including representatives from the Board-funded Collective Impact initiative, representatives of Toronto’s Black and Indigenous communities, youth groups, and community-based organizations that serve vulnerable and marginalized populations.”
A Know Your Rights sub-committee of PACER 2.0 was created with the mandate to “inform the community what their legal rights are in their interactions with police.”
The Toronto Police Service introduced body worn cameras for frontline police officers in 2020. Body worn cameras are intended to enhance public trust and confidence in policing. They provide unbiased evidence of police/community interactions. They are an investment in the Toronto Police Service’s commitment to delivering accountable and transparent policing services. So when are the cameras turned on and off? And can you ask an officer to turn off the camera? And if you’re recorded on camera, can you see the recording? Watch this.
Mental Health Calls for Service
If you are a person in crisis, or somebody thinks you are a person in crisis, police officers might be asked to check on you. Under the Mental Health Act, this is the law that applies to these situations:
- Police can talk with you and decide everything is OK, then leave.
- They can offer to connect you with a community based service, or take you to a hospital if you want to go. You can ask to be connected to the services you want. They can try, if it is possible.
- They can call their Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) to talk with you further, which is made up of one police officer and one hospital-based nurse.
But what happens if an officer decides that everything is not okay? Watch this.
There are several ways in which a police officer may interact with you when you’re in public, by yourself, or with others. Your rights and the police officers responsibilities change with each interaction. In some circumstances you can chose to speak freely with an officer, in others you may chose to remain silent. What are your rights when you are driving a vehicle? There are different reasons why a police officer may stop you while you’re driving. Under the Highway Traffic Act, there are grounds in which a driver must produce identifying information, insurance, and a safety record of the vehicle being driven. In addition, seat belts must be worn by all passengers. Watch this.
Members of the public may be subject to police searches. However, police officers are only permitted to conduct searches of people, vehicles and property for the purposes of protecting the public and finding evidence in certain circumstances. An officer can ask you at any time if you consent to being searched, but they must give you a reason why they want to search you, and they must ensure you understand what may happen if they find something. You have the right to refuse to consent at any time.
Here are the reasons why an officer may search you without your consent:
- If you are being detained, an officer may do a pat-down search for safety (such as searching for a weapon); or
- If you are under arrest, an officer may search you or your belongings for safety, or evidence relating to your arrest. This search may extend to your immediate surroundings; or
- With a search warrant for a DNA sample.
Engagements with the Community
Racism and racial profiling are pressing and substantial problems that hurt individuals and poison our communities. Left unchecked, they deny the possibility of living in a just society. When the Ontario government banned carding on January 1, 2017, it was a vital step forward in concretely addressing racism and racial profiling in Toronto. Much work remains to be done, including the work of providing people with information about carding and the rights enacted in 2017 when the practice was banned. To learn more about your rights when engaging with a police officer, please watch this video.
These videos are the result of the dedicated work of many community members who came forward to help the Toronto Police Service improve its effort to inform the public and its members. The group, led by Inspector Kelly Skinner of the Toronto Police Service and Knia Singh, Principal Lawyer at Ma’at Legal Services, included Yvette Blackburn (Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, GJDC – Canadian Representative), Jennifer Chambers (Executive Director of the Empowerment Council), Stephen Linton, and Stephen McCammon (Legal Counsel at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario).