Racial Bias Exists in the Toronto Police Service

Does Racial Bias Exist within the Winnipeg Police Service?

Proposition 1     Racial bias exists in society at large.

Proposition 2     Police agencies hire employees that are representative of society.

Conclusion          Some police officers hold racially biased views.

The question should not be,” does racial bias exist?” but rather, how prevalent is it and how does it affect the delivery of police services to the citizens of Winnipeg. 

The first step in effectively dealing with racial bias in police agencies is recognition from the very top of the organization that it exists.  No organization is able to take effective steps to address an issue until it first recognizes that the issue exists.  If a police chief does not recognize that racial bias exists within a police service, then there is no need to address it.  Racial bias is not an issue that lends itself to change percolating up from the bottom of the organization.  It requires decisive leadership from the top. 

 As recently as 2002, then Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino took the position that racial bias did not exist within the Toronto Police Service.  The police union followed up with a $2.7 billion class action libel lawsuit against the Toronto Star. * Seven years later current Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair not only recognized that racial bias exists within the Toronto Police Service but also recognized that racial profiling is a problem.   

The recognition by Chief Blair that racial bias exists within the Toronto Police Service demonstrates true leadership.  It makes it easier for other police chiefs to admit the obvious.  If racial bias exists within the Toronto Police Service it’s hard to imagine that somehow Winnipeg and other major Canadian police agencies are immune. 

In Toronto, Chief Blair has followed up with action that has created positive results in the area of female and visible minority recruitment and hiring. The hiring of women and visible minorities has increased dramatically.  Recruit classes used to have from 10-15 percent female and visible minority representation.  Women and visible minorities now account for 30-40 percent of recruits in typical recruit classes.   The Toronto Police Service has also invited the Ontario Human Rights commission to conduct a review of its policy and procedure. 

Some measures that the Winnipeg Police Service might consider to improve race relations and address the racial bias issue are:

  • Public recognition that racial bias exists within the Service and a commitment from  the top to address it;
  • Employ innovative recruiting strategies to boost the hiring of members of minority groups;
  • Revamp the mandate of the existing Race Relations Unit, and staff it appropriately;
  • Provide meaningful training and education on racial bias and racial profiling at all levels of the organization;
  • Develop partnerships with minority communities;
  • Fully investigate all race related complaints and demonstrate that race motivated misconduct will not be tolerated;
  • Develop a partnership with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and invite a review of the Service’s personnel policies and procedures;
  • Form research relationships with the two local Universities and engage in proactive research to establish the extent of racial bias within the Service and approaches to address it.


*The lawsuit was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada which upheld a previous Ontario Superior Court decision.