A report released the morning of June 6 definitively proves there’s a systemic racism problem in the Toronto Police Service (TPS). Data shows that people of colour were significantly overrepresented in the 949 use of force incidents that occured in 2020.
In particular, 39 per cent of people Toronto police used force against were Black while only 24 per cent of Toronto police interactions were with Black people. Black residents were overrepresented by 220 per cent.
Furthermore, the level of force deployed showed racial disparities. Black people were 230 per cent more likely than white people to have firearms pointed at them when they were not perceived to be in possession of any weapons.
The report also found that strip searches were used to disproportionately target racialized people, with Indigenous people overrepresented by 30 per cent.
These are just some of the figures from the damning report that confirms what racialized and oppressed people have been saying about the police for years.
It was enough to prompt a public apology from Toronto Police Chief James Ramer, in which he offered platitudes about “listening” to communities and promised, “we will do better.”
At the same time, however, he offered comfort to officers themselves, reassuring them, “This is an organizational shortcoming and it does not speak to your conduct as police officers and civilian members.” And Ramer side-stepped reporters asking for individual officers to be held accountable for racist conduct.
What Toronto police are doing in response to the findings is implementing measures such as equity training and a review of the existing use of force procedure.
Training and reviews will hardly be enough, however, to sweep the Toronto Police Service clean of its racism. There is no police without racism under capitalism.
In 2020 the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis inspired the largest mass movement in the history of the United States. This movement against police violence rocked the U.S. and had its echo here in Canada. Millions of protesters across North America called for the defunding and even abolition of the police. Despite promises from politicians and governments to cut police budgets and explore alternatives for public safety, in the wake of that movement police budgets, including that of the TPS, were actually increased.
What this shows is that the problem goes beyond simply reforming the police or cutting budgets. The police exist to prop up the current system, a system based on inequality and exploitation. In fact, the primary role of the police is to defend current property relations. In other words, the police exist in capitalist society to defend the private ownership of the main levers of the economy. They defend the interests of the rich and powerful against the oppressed and downtrodden. Violence against racialized people is intrinsic to their function.
The role and function of the police is rooted in class society. The police exist to defend the “haves” from the “have nots”. To end racist state violence we must go beyond reforms and budget cuts and overthrow capitalism itself. The only way to get rid of a class institution such as the police is the establishment of a society without class divisions. Only then could capitalist policing, with all its racism and violence, be replaced with community-based organizations of public safety under the democratic control of the people themselves. Socialist measures for higher wages, full employment, quality housing for all, etc. will dramatically improve people’s quality of life and safety. To end police violence we need a socialist revolution.