Andrew Loku – Our Recommendations
As the organization that served Andrew Loku, we have an ongoing vested interest in the safety and health of the communities we serve.
Across Boundaries is greatly disappointed that there has been an over three-year delay in responding to the inquiries by the Toronto Police Services, the board, and other institutions named.
We a present the following recommendations in the spirit of creating a response that is meaningful and truly safe for racialized, Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBQT++ communities whose lives also intersect with mental illness and addictions:
Recommendation 1: There needs to be sector-wide training (for institutions and communities) on what a “crisis” is. What may be a situation which requires medical intervention or support is automatically escalated to something else by virtue of being called a “crisis”, something which requires a more negative, harsher response. Ongoing and in-depth education is needed to understand the difference to ultimately change the response.
Recommendation 2: Four pilots are proposed based on geography – while it is understandable that Toronto is a large city, the purpose of this initiative is to respond to the negative interactions of particular communities with the police. As such the pilots need to represent those communities – not simply by ensuring anti-racism/anti-oppression/resisting anti-Black racism as a value or training is embedded in the construction of the team, but rather the team be led by racialized and Black community health organizations, staffed by racialized and Black individuals (who can provide the lived expertise) and be responding to calls from racialized and Black communities specifically. The teams need to be embedded in the community and be able to build new relationships for success.
Recommendation 3: Enough time dedicated to conducting fulsome and meaningful consultations by prioritizing those communities most negatively impacted by police interactions (racialized, Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBQT++) as per data and experience. Efforts have to be made to ensure those people who may not usually be reached are able to participate in these consultations. Only then will the consultations be real and meaningful with feedback to improve the suggested models.
Recommendation 4b and 4c: It is imperative that a separate telephone number be created for calls of distress rather than calling 911. Regardless of any training proposed for the dispatcher receiving the initial call, there needs to be a clear delineation from past practice to new ones. A delineation from what requires a call to the police for “danger” and what would be a call for care is necessary for the community to feel this to be true non-police “alternative”. Changing the current structure by dressing it up a little differently and expect it to take on a different meaning for the public is doomed for failure right from the start.
At each step, the communities most impacted need to be a key part in the development of the model, decision making in the allocation of funding, and the monitoring and evaluation of the pilots.