CEAPC grew out of a 2002 community-based response to issues of police-community relations in downtown west Toronto being addressed through the Alexandra Park and Greater Community Race Relations Task Team. Task team member Toronto Police Service Superintendent Paul Gotschalk connected the future leaders of CEAPC to then Police Chief Julian Fantino who in turn, supported the idea of exploring a community-based complaints intake process. Staff time was committed to doing so and the Toronto Police Service and CEAPC community representatives worked together on developing the original CEAPC project’s protocols, terms of reference, and the project as a whole.
To further explore these issues, a series of 17 focus groups were held in various communities across the city. These confirmed that the issues identified in the Alexandra Park / Scadding Court area were not limited to that community. Many diverse community members across the Greater Toronto Area felt that current police complaints systems were not accessible or sensitive to many community members, nor was it considered transparent and accountable to the public. The information gathered prompted the development of the CEAPC model, with its multi-facetted approach.
A two year demonstration project was launched in March 2005, which aimed to facilitate and promote accountability, transparency and understanding between the Toronto Police Service and Toronto’s communities. Its goals were to make the police complaints systems more accessible and available to the specific needs of community members. In recognition of the fact that the members of marginalized communities who are most vulnerable in their interactions with police are often the least likely to exercise their rights to complain, CEAPC was particularly concerned with facilitating access to those who face systemic barriers to the complaints process
The goals of the CEAPC project were to increase community safety by enhancing the relationship between diverse communities and police. The mechanisms through which to accomplish this were:
- to make the police complaints system more available and accessible to members of diverse communities and,
- to create opportunities to for police and communities to come together, build trust and engage in dialogue.
Project funding for the CEAPC demonstration project ended in December 2006. Though outreach for the CEAPC support services to complainants ceased when project funding ended in December 2006, CEAPC continues to receive regular requests for support from community members seeking information and assistance with respect to the complaints process.
CEAPC demonstrated that community-based complaint intake works and is particularly beneficial for members of the community who are marginalized due to income level, race, culture, neighbourhood, literacy challenges, newcomer status and other factors. Many people, particularly those with traditionally troubled relationships with police, have a much greater level of trust, safety and comfort when coming to file a complaint in a community setting. Also effective is the approach of providing public education and outreach through community-based organizations and sites. With these learnings and experiences in place and its feasible and tested model of community-based education, intake and support, CEAPC is now focused on working toward the development of a new police complaints system that addresses the realities and meets the needs of communities as well as police and government.