U of T professor to assist police committee on anti-Black racism in Mississauga and Brampton


Published January 18, 2023 at 4:33 pm

akwasi owusu bempah

A University of Toronto associate professor will assist the Peel Police Services Board in addressing systemic racism.

A report last year found Peel police used force on Black people 3.2 times more than their share of the population last year. While Black residents currently make up 9.9 per cent of Peel’s population (according to 2016 census data), they accounted for 32 per cent of use of force incidents in 2021.

The Peel Police Services Board has been working on solutions. But they took some heat for refusing to start an anti-Black racism panel, and instead started the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in October of 2021. That committee was then incorporated into the Governance and Human Rights Committee, which started in October 2022.

And today (Jan. 18) the board announced University of Toronto associate professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah will assist the committee in its ongoing efforts to address systemic racism, specifically anti-Black racism, from the perspective of police governance and oversight.

Owusu-Bempah is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and a Senior Fellow at Massey College. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in the areas of human rights, anti-Black racism, and race-based data. His work examines the intersections of race, crime, and criminal justice.

He has been collaborating with the Peel Police Service to address systemic racism, including evaluating the use of force data based on race and developing human rights training for police officers. He has also advised the York Regional Police Services Board on how to combat anti-Black racism.

He will work closely with the committee to provide expert advice and guidance on human rights, including anti-Black racism.

Alex Luscombe, a Ph.D. candidate in criminology at the University of Toronto, a data scientist, and a research and policy consultant, will assist.

“We are thrilled to have Akwasi and Alex’s expertise and experience,” said Sumeeta Kohli, chair of the Governance and Human Rights Committee. “Their expertise will be invaluable as we continue to work towards a police service that prioritizes human rights for all community members.”

The Governance and Human Rights Committee’s goal is to apply a human rights lens to policing, governance, and oversight better to address the challenges of Peel’s diverse community.

“A human rights-based approach to police governance, through our strategic plan and policies, is essential for building trust and confidence in the police, fostering accountability, and ensuring safer communities,” said board vice-chair, Ahmad Attia.

Owusu-Bempah’s initial steps will be to define the committee’s mandate, examine existing policies from a human rights perspective, and develop a meaningful engagement approach with community members to translate lived experiences to governance, policy, and changes in strategic priorities.

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