Bill Closs, former Kingston police chief who made the rare move of collecting race-based statistics, says police chiefs won’t willingly collect this data and government must require it.
The air was already fraught with tension inside the North York committee room before the police officer even opened his mouth.
On that February day in 1989, the city outside was a powder keg. Race relations were strained and communities in Toronto and beyond were outraged over recent police killings of unarmed black men, one of whom was only 17.
Against this backdrop, staff inspector Julian Fantino, who would later serve as Toronto police chief from 2000 to 2005, had been hauled before a committee to respond to allegations of discriminatory policing.
Instead of defusing a combustible situation, he put a lit match to it.
In the Jane and Finch area, he said, black people committed 82 per cent of robberies and muggings, 55 per cent of purse snatchings and 51 per cent of drug offences.
Fantino added that “an inordinate amount of serious crimes” involved black people.
Those crimes were a “significant reason for the tensions” between cops and community, he said.
The public outcry was fast and furious. Community activists swiftly denounced his statistics as “disgusting and racist garbage” and criticized police for releasing such stigmatizing figures without transparency or context.