Chantelle Krupka says Peel police taking the historic step to legally bind itself to address systemic racism and discrimination won’t heal the lingering injuries and trauma she still feels months after she was shot by a Peel officer — but it’s sure to lay bare failings people of colour already know all too well.
Krupka, a Black woman who continues to undergo physiotherapy after she was shot in the abdomen on Mother’s Day, says she’s skeptical the service’s recent decision to sign a memorandum of understanding with Ontario’s Human Rights Commission will translate into real change.
“Until I start seeing less protection for police who shoot civilians I’m not going to be impressed,” she said, adding the agreement with the human rights commission is a positive but “minimal” step. “This may be historic, but will it actually be effective?” she asked.
Including Krupka’s case, Peel police have been involved in a series of incidents that have sparked outrage over the last 12 month, including several fatal shootings and a ruling that race was a factor in two Peel police officers’ decision to restrain a six-year-old girl by “handcuffing and shackling” her at her Mississauga school in 2016.
What’s needed, Krupka said, are wholesale changes in the Police Services Act that would allow for the naming of officers who shoot civilians as well as compel officers under investigation to be subjected to an interview by Ontario’s police watchdog.
Krupka’s skepticism is shared by Knia Singh, the lawyer representing the family of Jamal Derek Jr. Francique, a 28-year-old Mississauga man who was shot and killed by a Peel officer in January, and Hassan Choudhary, the nephew of 62-year-old Ejaz Choudry, who was shot and killed inside his Malton apartment in June.
“I think Peel has taken that step because they have a very recent dark history around mental health (calls) and around engaging people,” Singh said. “I commend them for doing it, but we have to see where it goes because this is the early stage of making an agreement.”
He said those impacted the most by discrimination and systemic racism should have substantial say in all aspects of solutions resulting from the multi-year probe, something both police and the OHRC have committed to doing.
Singh said Peel could set the precedent for progressive policing across Canada.
“They can be the marker of a policy that can transform policing, but I think their practises have a long way to go,” he said.
The agreement, which is aimed at restoring the trust Black, Indigenous and racialized people have in police, will see the OHRC provide human rights guidance to Peel police and its board on initiatives to identify and eliminate racism in its service delivery and employment practices.
“We understand that the willingness to step out, implement changes, to drive out systemic racism without fear of failure is required and expected,” Peel police chief Nishan Duraiappah announcing the agreement last month.
Duraiappah, who has the full backing of the board, acknowledged it’s been a “difficult year in policing,” with surging pressure to defund police. Duraiappah commended his officers for buying into bold changes, which he said is an “opportunity to tighten gaps.”
“What we’re committing to is a bold step because it’s done voluntarily,” he said. “We’ve embarked on this work to try to get into the messy grey areas to see how we can achieve it in an agreed-upon format.”
OHRC chief commissioner Ena Chadha called the agreement “groundbreaking,” saying, “hopefully it will have positive ripple effects throughout the province.”
The aim is to have the agreement adopted as a consent order, which would hold Peel police liable for backtracking on or breaching the agreement. The agreement will set benchmarks and timelines for the multi-year plan.
Choudhary said police will have to be monitored to ensure they’re delivering on these promises. The OHRC has said monitoring will be included.
“I don’t think anything is going to change until there are serious consequences,” he said. “I’ve heard words for the last five months.”
Both police and the OHRC anticipate a draft agreement will be ready for submission to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario early next year.
The deaths of other residents at the hand of police sparked intense public outcry this year.
Last November, Clive Mensah, a 30-year-old mentally ill man, died after Peel police Tasered him near his home. In April, D’Andre Campbell, 26, was shot and killed in his home by a Peel officer.
Of those cases, the SIU has completed its investigation into only Krupka’s case — for which a rookie Peel officer was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm.
The deaths of Francique, Mensah, Campbell and Choudry are still before the watchdog. Earlier this year, the officers accused of shooting Choudry and Campbell refused to participate in the respective SIU investigations, as is their right.
Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star