Mental health teams, training recommended in anti-Black racism Toronto police strategy

Toronto Police

Following massive protests in Toronto, the city police's board will hear recommendations on improving relations with communities of colour, including establishing mental health teams to respond to calls and more training for officers. 

But it does not include what several councillors have been calling for: a 10 per cent reduction in the police's budget, to be reallocated to social services. 

In the Friday agenda, Chair Jim Hart lays out eight recommendations. 

In what many activists have been calling for, one recommendation is for the board to work with the City to develop new models for mental health crisis intervention teams, made up of nurses and social workers, when it is safe to do so, as opposed to police initially responding.

"If an alternative mobile crisis intervention model is identified and all partners agree, and the demand for a regular police presence reduces, the Board can identify the funding currently allocated to the Service’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Team Program for re-allocation to this alternative model," the report says.

One example of how this could be applied is in the recent death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who on May 27th, fell from her 24th floor High Park apartment. 

Family members initially claimed she was pushed by police, but no longer are, instead wanting answers about the police's overall role in the death and if it could've been prevented, pointing to a lack of de-escalation. 

The investigation is currently in limbo as members have refused to be interviewed by the Special Investigations Unit after leaks to the media, with the family's lawyer calling for the unit to bring in an outside agency or release what it's found so far. 

Toronto Police have said they were responding to multiple calls of an assault, including a knife being involved, while family have denied those claims. 

Another recommendation is around police budgets, which would include the chief providing a line-by-line breakdown of the current budget. 

However, it does not include the 10 per cent reduction being recommended by councillors Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam. 

"Anything other than supporting a “minimum” of reinvesting 10% of the police budget, the largest single line item in Toronto’s entire budget, towards community supports and alternatives to policing, isn’t good enough," Matlow said on social media following the recommendations being released. 

Other suggestions include a new training course for policiing the city's "diverse communities and populations," as well as mandatory anti-Black racism training and an audit of courses at the police College.