Ombudsman criticizes TTC investigation of black teen being pinned; TTC accepts recommendations

Streetcar Altercation

Toronto's ombudsman said a Toronto Transit Commission investigation into an incident of a black teen being pinned down on a streetcar platform was not "adequately thorough, fair and transparent."

In response, the TTC is accepting all of Susan Opler's recommendations, but the commission's CEO declined to go into specifics about the investigation.

"She's helped us identify some areas within our processes for investigations that we've accepted and we're going to improve upon," Rick Leary said. "We want people to feel comfortable riding the TTC." 

On February 18, 2018, three TTC fare inspectors pinned down the young man on a streetcar platform at St. Clair West station, with witnesses saying it was believed he didn't pay. 

After concerns about race playing a factor, the TTC conduced their review, but cleared the inspectors of misconduct. 

However, Opler found the investigation lacked evidence, not enough questions were asked, nor was a proper standard of proof applied. 

The report focused on the TTC investigation, not the incident itself.

"While the TTC's investigation had many good features, it fell short in several important ways," Opler said. 

Recommendations include establishing a protocol for external review, standard of proof and an anti-racism strategy. 

Leary said all are accepted and an anti-racism task force will be established. 

Opler said the TTC didn't consider the possibility of unconscious racial bias and while Leary wouldn't say if he thinks that it exists, he said racism as a whole certainly does. 

"Whether there's an unconscious bias or not, there's a public concern and a public perception, that has to be addressed," he said. 

He wouldn't comment on a lawsuit from the family because it's ongoing, nor if he defends the ultimate conclusion of the investigation. 

"I can't comment on that right now, we want to learn from what the ombudsman provided us," he said. 

Independence was also a focal point of Opler's report. 

"The TTC should also consider creating a protocol for retaining external investigators in appropriate cases," she said. 

Leary said while external investigators are used, in this case they were not, although it's not clear why. 

"Hindsight's 20/20, in the future we'll look at doing more external investigations," he said. "We want to get it right." 

Two of the inspectors are still employed, while the third left the organization, but it's unclear if the incident was a factor.