Statement on TPS Decision to Dedicate Four Officers to Church-Wellesley Village

QUEERS CRASH THE BEAT Condemns Toronto Police Services’ Decision to Dedicate Four Officers to Church-Wellesley Village, Calls for Immediate Redistribution of Funds to Community Mental Health and Outreach Services

Queers Crash the Beat unequivocally condemns the October 23rd announcement that four additional police officers have been dedicated to neighbourhood enforcement in the Church-Wellesley Village / St. James Town districts.

Queers Crash the Beat immediately calls for these dedicated resources (at minimum, $400,000 per year, based on average Toronto Police Services salaries), to be re-invested in community mental health and outreach services, which will more proactively address the myriad issues impacting community members that are being incorrectly classified as criminal justice issues.

“These neighbourhood officers put a friendly face on the violence we’ve seen the police commit in our communities for many years, and gentrification in the Village contributes to this approach of treating poverty and mental health issues as matters of criminal justice,” says Mikiki, a spokesperson for Queers Crash the Beat, “This substitutes police services for the actual health and social services our communities sorely need. Reproducing this dynamic on Church Street will only further harm people in need of assistance, and is a development we completely reject.”

The announcement is the most recent example of TPS wading into issues that are better addressed by health care and social services, and the failure of municipal and provincial governments to minimize reliance on law enforcement – as we’ve also seen with Black Lives Matter’s opposition to the School Resource Officers program, and the city’s and province’s limited support of the Moss Park pop-up supervised injection facility. Further, increasing the presence of police does not increase the safety of our communities. TPS continues to racially profile, commits abuses against trans and gender-variant peoples, and contributes to the criminalization of people living with HIV, sex workers, people who use drugs, and those who partake in consensual public sex, as we just saw in the overwhelmingly-maligned Project Marie.

As we also saw over the summer, the police’s failure to respond adequately to missing trans and queer individuals in Toronto yet again demonstrates that resources belong in the hands of the community members leading the response on the ground. Instead of increased policing, it is crucial that we immediately act to address inequalities in our communities by investing in community services and supports for those who are frequently the targets of police violence and who are economically and socially dispossessed by gentrification.

The Church-Wellesley Village has long been a diverse community that includes Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, precariously housed people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and newcomers to Canada. Queers Crash the Beat is calling on the community at large to reject initiatives that create undue intimidation and violence toward marginalized members of our communities. We reject the approach of TPS, which is to treat issues of mental health and poverty as issues of criminality. Far from solving issues, this approach will only entrench them.