Two years after an altercation that prompted accusations of racism against Toronto transit personnel, the TTC is in the process of creating a seven-person team to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by special constables and fare inspectors.
The plan is included in the agency’s annual report on complaints, which will be discussed by the TTC board in a virtual meeting Wednesday.
“It’s really part and parcel of a comprehensive package and a holistic review of the way that our fare inspection process, in particular, is done with an eye to human rights and diversity being front and centre,” TTC spokesman Stuart Green said Tuesday.
The changes come as a result of recommendations by the city’s ombudsman after an incident was caught on video showing three fare inspectors tackling and pinning a black man to the ground in 2018.
The ombudsman found the TTC’s investigation into the matter, which included allegations of misconduct and racial discrimination, was not adequate or transparent. Her office made six recommendations, which the TTC has adopted.
The new unit will replace the existing unit complaint coordinator (UCC), who receives all complaints then refers them to different departments. Once the new unit is in place, it will receive, respond to, and investigate all complaints.
The UCC will be included in the unit.
Complaints against special constables will still need to be reviewed by the Toronto Police Service before the TTC can investigate, and complaints that involve a human rights issue will still be looked at by the TTC’s human rights consultant. External investigators will still be involved in complaints that involve serious allegations, according to Green.
City council approved the agency’s budget for 2020 in February, including $1 million to hire staff and run the unit. Green said the unit will be up and running sometime this year, but the process has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Complaints down slightly
The implementation of the dedicated unit comes as public complaints against special constables and fare inspectors were slightly down in 2019 compared to the previous two years.
In 2019, there were 26 complaints filed against special constables and 139 against fare inspectors, which is two and 25 fewer, respectively, compared to the year before.
In 2017, there were 28 complaints against special constables and 109 against fare inspectors.
The decrease in complaints comes after the TTC hired more staff — there are now 82 special constables compared to 67 last year. The transit agency now has 91 fare inspectors, up from 84 in 2019.
Of the 26 complaints filed against special constables last year, six related to use of force and three were based on race.
Of the 139 complaints against fare inspectors last year, 20 were related to race and three involved allegations of use of force.
Coun. Brad Bradford, who sits on the TTC board, said the numbers reflect some of the training and changes that have been put in place since the ombudsman made the recommendations.
Creating the investigative unit is a “positive step” and a “good use of resources,” Bradford said.
“The TTC had a lot of work to do as an organization, but they are being accountable and we are taking steps to address that feedback [from the ombudsman],” he said.
TTC board member skeptical
But Coun. Shelley Carroll, who also sits on the board, said she is skeptical about investigations being done internally by the TTC. She’d like the new unit to report directly to the TTC board.
“That takes it out of the realm of investigating inappropriate behaviour and keeping it internal,” she said.
As it stands now, the board receives the annual report that breaks down the number and category of complaints, and what department handled them and the outcome, but details are not included.
“This report is going to make me feel knowledgeable, but I’m not feeling very accountable,” Carroll said.