Peel Police Board ignores report on controversial shooting of Black resident that led to $21M lawsuit against former chief & the board
The Peel Police Services Board appears to have avoided public engagement around a controversial 2015 shooting that left a Black man dead, and led to a $21-million lawsuit against former chief Jennifer Evans for alleged interference.
A coroner’s inquest led to sweeping recommendations for the force, which has been plagued by allegations of misconduct when dealing with Black residents, but the board has done little to bring the coroner’s report before the public for discussion and debate.
Last year, a disturbing report analyzing 2020 data revealed that Black residents had force used against them by Peel Police officers at four times the rate compared to the overall population of the region.
A year later, the board that is supposed to act to ensure the protection of residents from discriminatory policing, appears to instead be deflecting attention away from controversial incidents involving police shootings of Black community members.
“The recommendations in front of us, at minimum, require a public response from the board, and the service, that clearly spells out how and when these recommendations will be implemented,” said Peel resident and equity advocate David Bosveld, who had to bring the matter forward to the public at Friday’s police board meeting himself.
Peel resident and equity advocate David Bosveld had to bring a report on the Peel Police shooting of a Black resident to the force's board himself.
“I’m surprised, but not surprised it’s not an agenda item. This to me demonstrates the lack of seriousness for Black lives. It’s shocking. This is seven years a family waited for inquest, a verdict was rendered as was a significant number of recommendations that the community would like to see implemented.”
Previously reported by The Pointer, 22-year-old Mississauga resident Marc Ekamba and his mother, Boketsu Boekwa, suffered from delusions that they were victims of a mystical conspiracy. This led Boekwa into a verbal altercation with their neighbour, where, while being restrained by her son, Boekwa threw a knife, which skittered across the ground without harm.
The neighbour then called Peel Police, who arrived six hours later and reviewed a videotape, taken by the neighbour’s daughter. The officers then went to Ekamba’s home, and requested him and his mother to come out.
Proper procedure dictates that when making an arrest, if a suspect refuses to leave their home the officers should obtain a warrant and bring in officers trained for such situations.
According to Christopher Assie, Boekwa’s lawyer, the lead officer instead grabbed Ekamba, and pulled him from the home.
Assie said Ekamba resisted, leading to a struggle on the ground in the dark. One of the officers claimed that Ekamba stabbed him. Ekamba then broke free and ran, while Boekwa emerged from their home and hit the officer in the head with a pot.
Boekwa was put into handcuffs, and Ekamba reemerged brandishing a knife. Officers fired 19 bullets, 11 striking Ekamba, killing him.
It was clear the man was suffering mental health problems but the police response included no expertise to deal with such a crisis, and an inexperienced officer who was still in training was one of those sent to deal with the call.
It was reported at the time of his death that Ekamba had a history of mental health issues and Peel Police was aware of this. However, the coroner's recommendations suggest the handling of the interaction that led to his death was glaringly mismanaged. In response to the force's ineptitude, the following direction has been handed down:
- Improve knowledge and awareness for police communicators, call takers, and dispatchers of the signs of mental health crisis, and ensure that communicators are trained to ask questions directed at determining whether a call involves a mental health crisis.
- Ensure that police officers responding to a mental health crisis are aware that police have responded previously to incidents involving the same parties, and facilitate access for responding officers to significant information regarding previous calls.
- Ensure that all police officers who interact directly with the public are provided with the four-day mental health training currently provided to incoming police officers in their first year of service. Regular refresher training on mental health issues should be provided to all police officers who interact with the public.
- Ensure that police officers can accurately identify their own Mental Health Act options and explain options available to complainants when a mental health issue is the basis for criminal conduct.
The coroner’s wide-ranging recommendations highlight the dire need for mental health expertise when dealing with residents in crisis, and point to Peel Police’s poor handling of the incident. “To the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Peel Regional Police: There must be special recognition of the unique challenges Black people who also have serious mental health issues face when they come into contact with police. This unique intersection of Blackness and lived experience of mental health issues must be specifically addressed in any training on use of force, de-escalation, and police interaction with such persons.”
A Mississauga Black Lives Matter rally after a string of shootings of Black residents by Peel Police officers.
(The Pointer file photo)
The coroner calls for Peel Police and the Province to ensure the force gets proper funding immediately to address the growing problems around mental health calls.
One of the 19 bullets fired in the chaotic police response went through a neighbour’s window, hitting 21-year-old Susan Zreik in the back. She survived. Trainee Constable Jennifer Whyte, one of the responding officers, shot her training officer, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, in the back.
Whyte is the daughter of Kim Whyte, a since retired superintendent with Peel Police and a close friend of former chief Jennifer Evans, who was in charge of the force at the time.
A $21-million lawsuit was filed by Zreik against Evans, the Peel Police Services Board, Jennifer Whyte and four other members of the force for assault and battery, negligence causing bodily harm, gross negligence and abuse of process and misfeasance in public office.
The defendants have denied the allegations.
Zreik alleged Evans visited her at the hospital after the woman was accidentally shot. She was in a college policing program at the time and alleges Evans told her, hours after being shot by a Peel officer and with the bullet still in her back, that her future in policing was “all but guaranteed.” Evans allegedly gave Zreik a business card with her phone number.
The lawsuit alleged Whyte, who was still in training, either disregarded her training or had never been properly trained in the use of a firearm in such a situation.
It was unclear who shot Zreik but forensic evidence did determine Whyte had accidentally shot her training officer in the incident.
A year after the 2015 shooting, Jennifer Whyte was no longer an officer but managed to secure a civilian job in the same police force where her mother had served as a senior officer, and was close friends with the chief at the time.
The incident was surrounded by disturbing conduct from the bottom to the very top of Peel Police. A Black man displaying clear signs of mental health crisis was shot and killed, a training officer shot another officer, an innocent bystander was shot and, according to evidence, the chief at the time visited a victim of a police shooting at the hospital before she had even given an official statement to police and before the SIU interviewed her to learn what happened.
Now, the board named in the $21-million lawsuit, has tried to prevent the matter from coming back into the public spotlight, keeping the coroner’s sweeping report off its agenda.
The coroner’s inquest report, which was put together from May 16 to June 3 by Dr. David Eden, found the death a homicide and released 35 recommendations—18 to all Ontario Police Services, 12 to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, three to the Peel Housing Corporation, and one specifically to Peel Police (to ensure its mobile crisis rapid response teams, which focus on expertise to handle mental health crises, are properly funded).
Despite the lengthy recommendations, the Peel Police Services Board never included any focus on the report on its June 24 agenda.
“I believe, had these recommendations been in place, my son would have been here today with me, with his family, with his children,” AnnMarie White, mother of late 28-year-old Jamal Francique, told the Peel Police Services Board on Friday.
She was one of several Black residents who had made their voices heard at the Friday meeting, following the release of the coroner inquest report and 35 recommendations around the 2015 death of Ekamba at the hands of Peel Police officers. The board, despite the obvious public interest in the report, did not put it on the agenda, making it difficult for residents to access the findings and recommendations, denying them an opportunity to address the coroner’s public report.
Bosveld and other advocates had to delegate to the board and raise the report themselves.
The Peel Police Services Board is the civilian body governing the Peel Regional Police (PRP). It is responsible for the provision of effective policing, law enforcement and crime prevention through the enactment of policies.
Bosveld was the first delegate during the meeting and accused the board of not taking ongoing policing issues that directly impact Black residents seriously.
“This board is the civilian oversight of the PRP which requires us, as Black community members, to press the board, to hold the service accountable, to voice the concerns of our communities and to repair the harm caused that the PRP has inflicted upon Black communities,” Bosveld said.
Bosveld said residents don’t just want to the coroner’s recommendations implemented, they want to have the implementation be tracked with oversight benchmarks.
“It’s my recommendation that the board strike a working group with members of the service, the board, and the community to advise, report and co-construct a plan with regards to those recommendations specific to PRP and also the ones for police boards, police services across the province.”
Bosveld said recommendations 12 and 16 “hit close to home.”
Number 12 states police services and police services boards shall establish standing or advisory committees on race and impartial policing and on mental health in order to meet with representatives of peer-run organizations and members of affected communities on an ongoing basis to discuss concerns and facilitate solutions.
Number 16 advises Police services and police services boards to consult with third-parties, including individuals from Black communities, Black advocacy community organizations, persons with lived experiences from peer-run organizations, and appropriate content experts, and develop an objective methodology to measure and evaluate police service performance on use of force; while also addressing corrective action to confront systemic discrimination; and provide clear and transparent information to the public on biased and discriminatory use of force.
There is currently no Black representation on the seven-member board that oversees Peel Police.
“I’ve been pushing, pulling and fighting at this board and at various tables for Black community members to be appointed to the board, but in the interim, I’ve asked for exactly what that recommendation asked for and been denied that. Today, I have no update on the softened version of the diversity panel that the board has agreed to.”
As Bosveld began to read recommendation Number 12 out loud, the board interrupted to remind him that he only had a minute of his five minutes left as a delegate.
White was the next speaker who called for the recommendations to be implemented.
White’s son, Jamal Francique, was shot in the back of the head by a Peel Police officer in 2020 after he had allegedly driven toward Peel officers who were arresting him for a breach of bail.
In 2021, the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) cleared the police officer of wrongdoing in the shooting.
According to the SIU’s official narrative, officers in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles, made their way to the townhouse complex where Francique resided with his parents.
The officers parked their vehicles in various locations in and around his Acura TSX, which was at the northern most spot of a row of parking spaces immediately west of the townhome. The plan was to wait for Francique to enter his vehicle, whereupon a team member would position his vehicle behind the Acura to prevent it from leaving.
However, the officer who was supposed to maneuver his vehicle directly behind the Acura was late arriving.
What followed was chaos.
After Francique successfully reversed, he accelerated forward in an arc that saw him strike and move past an officer’s vehicle and then head toward the grass boulevard. One officer jumped out of the way to her right to avoid being struck, while another officer chose to fire his weapon four times in the direction of the driver’s seat.
The SIU’s decision to clear officers of all wrongdoing led the Province’s official opposition party at the time to call for an overhaul of the SIU and police oversight, which MPPs, including those from Peel, said “continues to fail Black, Indigenous and racialized Ontarians, as well as those living with mental health issues.”
Knia Singh with Ma'at Legal Services, White’s lawyer, submitted a legal inquiry of the killing to the attorney general. Singh wrote there was no evidence that Francique could see the unidentified officers or vehicles that night, whether they identified themselves as police officers, or whether they had any visible markings of “Police” when they attempted to arrest him.
“Peel Police officers watched him go out of his house daily to pick up his children,” Singh said.
“Peel Police chose to do a nighttime arrest, high risk takedown for a man alleged to have a bail breach with eight vehicles and eight undercover officers leading to Mr. Jamal Francique being blocked in, and an officer arriving late, and a bit of a car maneuver in a small confined area where two officers were allegedly in the line of the car, and one was able to get out no problem. The other fires four shots into the car, one hitting Jamal in the back of the head.”
Peel residents marched in protest after reports of widespread discrimination by Peel Police.
(The Pointer file photo)
White described the feeling of losing her son: It was like her “heart breaking into a million pieces.”
“No accountability, not to mention no answers, specifically to how he was shot in the back of the head and why such excessive force was used for a breach of bail,” White told the board on Friday.
She said the board has the power and influence to save Black lives in Peel by making sure the recommendations are taken seriously, implemented and enforced.
“My son was loved, he was my world, he meant nothing to the Peel Police officer who left that bullet stuck in the back of his head, but he meant the world to me. He was everything.”
Claudette Beals-Clayton and Peter Korchinski were the next two to speak to the board, raising the coroner’s recommendations. Beals-Clayton and Korchinski lost their daughter Regis Korchinski Paquet two years ago in Toronto.
Paquet fell to her death from her 24th-floor apartment balcony while police were in her home. The SIU cleared Toronto police officers of wrongdoing.
“A lot of couples in the building also heard the screams. I went around the neighbourhood, I found people had videos, everything—they never made it into the SIU report. My wife heard the screams, she was right there,” Korchinski told the Peel Police Services Board.
“I don’t know who can help get justice for our family, get justice for my daughter Regis.”
Following the delegations, Brampton Councillor and Police board member Martin Medeiros put a motion forward that the recommendations related to board governance and policy be referred to the diversity and inclusion committee for consideration, and the recommendations for police operations be sent to Chief Nishan Duraiappah for review by the Peel Regional Police.
It passed unanimously.
Duraiappah said “all the recommendations by now” have been remedied by work they have “already done” or “are in the process of doing.”
“In August we will be coming back to the board with a very fulsome report on some of the work that’s been happening. Just in the last two years, with certainty, I can say, and it’s not just with our work with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, significant amount of effort has been put into strengthening our community and ensuring that we are listening to the voices but also improving the quality of our training, service and delivery.”
It’s unclear why, if the chief has already initiated work that addresses much of what the coroner has detailed in the recommendations, the June 3 report by Dr. Eden was not put on the agenda so board members and the public could engage with Duraiappah about all the measures being put in place to protect residents in the future.
In an interview after the meeting with The Pointer, Bosveld said that in a perfect world both the Peel Regional Police and the board would respond to each individual recommendation and state where they’re at.
“Otherwise you just have the chief saying, ‘Oh, we’re already doing it, we’ve already done it.’”
To all Ontario Police Services:
1. Improve knowledge and awareness for police communicators, call takers, and dispatchers of the signs of mental health crisis, and ensure that communicators are trained to ask questions directed at determining whether a call involves a mental health crisis.
2. Ensure that police officers responding to a mental health crisis are aware that police have responded previously to incidents involving the same parties, and facilitate access for responding officers to significant information regarding previous calls.
3. Ensure that all police officers who interact directly with the public are provided with the four-day mental health training currently provided to incoming police officers in their first year of service. Regular refresher training on mental health issues should be provided to all police officers who interact with the public.
4. Ensure that police officers can accurately identify their own Mental Health Act options and explain options available to complainants when a mental health issue is the basis for criminal conduct.
5. Continue implementation of the pilot enhanced de-escalation training developed by the Ontario Police College, and engage with OPC on its experience with the training and its potential implementation.
6. Ensure that persons with lived experience from peer-run organizations are directly involved in the development and delivery of both mental health crisis and de-escalation training.
7. Mandate that all Police Service officers receive annual implicit bias and cultural competency training to address stereotyping of Black people, and the existing research on anti-Black racism in policing.
8. Develop methods to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health, de-escalation and anti-racism training. The evaluation of the effectiveness of such training should include the participation of affected communities, including persons with lived experience from peer-run organizations.
9. Develop and implement a pilot project to explore the feasibility of dispatching crisis support workers to mental health service calls that do not require police involvement, similar to Peel Regional Police Mental Health Strategies.
10. Create emotionally supportive debrief sessions for police officers at the division or platoon level for those involved in critical incidents resulting in serious bodily harm or death, with regard for the Special Investigations Unit investigative process.
11. Ensure that witnesses or persons injured during an event that leads to a police-involved death are directed to trauma-informed supports.
12. Police Services and Police Services Boards shall establish standing or advisory committees on race and impartial policing and on mental health in order to meet with representatives of peer-run organizations and members of affected communities on an ongoing basis to discuss concerns and facilitate solutions.
13. Consult with the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate to analyze race-based data collected by Police Services to measure and evaluate police service performance on use of force, take corrective action to address systemic discrimination and provide clear and transparent information to the public on bias and discriminatory use of force.
14. Police Services and Police Services Boards shall establish permanent data collection and retention systems to record race, mental health issues, and other relevant factors on use of force incidents. The data should be standardized, disaggregated, tabulated and publicly reported. The data should include age, gender, perceived race, and officer perception of whether the individual has any mental health issues;
15. The results of the data collected on use of force incidents must be taught to all frontline Police officers.
16. Police Services and Police Services Boards shall consult with third-parties, including individuals from the Black community, Black advocacy community organizations, persons with lived experiences from peer-run organizations, and appropriate content experts, and: a. Develop an objective methodology to measure and evaluate police service performance on use of force; b. Take corrective action to address systemic discrimination; and c. Provide clear and transparent information to the public on biased and discriminatory use of force.
17. Training for new officers should be amended so that the question of the suspect’s mental health be as prominent in their considerations as the criminal activity they have committed.
18. Training should be given to establish who should lead the call when dealing with a potentially violent incident or crisis. All Ontario police services should seek and allocate funding and resources adequate to implement the above recommendations.
To the Peel Regional Police:
19. Re-evaluate the capacity of Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams, which focus on providing mental health expertise during police calls, to meet the growing need for these services in the Region of Peel. Peel Regional Police should seek and allocate funding and resources adequate to implement the above recommendations.
To the Ministry of the Solicitor General:
20. The Ontario Use of Force model should be renamed to accurately capture the intent and purpose of the model, which is a guide to police engagement with the public rather than to suggest that force is inherent in police interactions.
21. The Ontario Use of Force model shall be redesigned to highlight and emphasize the importance of deescalation at all points during police interactions.
22. The Ontario Police College shall ensure that persons with lived experience are engaged in the development and delivery of de-escalation training.
23. The Ontario Police College shall ensure that affected communities and persons with lived experience be directly engaged in the development and delivery of anti-bias training. OPC should ensure that community organizations who represent persons with lived experience are engaged in this work.
24. Revise the Use of Force Report form to require officers to document de-escalation techniques used. To the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Peel Regional Police:
25. There must be special recognition of the unique challenges Black people who also have serious mental health issues face when they come into contact with police. This unique intersection of Blackness and lived experience of mental health issues must be specifically addressed in any training on Use of Force, de-escalation, and police interaction with such persons. The Ministry of the Solicitor General and Peel Regional Police should seek and allocate funding and resources adequate to implement the above recommendations.
To the Government of Ontario:
26. Commission a study to examine the creation and implementation of a province-wide, civilian-led crisis intervention system to respond to persons in crisis, including mental health crisis. This team should be staffed by trained mental health professionals, crisis intervention professionals, and persons with lived experience.
27. Improve public awareness of mental health issues to counteract stigma and discrimination against persons with mental health issues. Measures to improve public awareness should be developed in consultation with content experts and community organizations that represent persons with lived experience.
28. Improve public awareness of both policing and non-policing community-based crisis responses to mental health crisis. Efforts to improve public awareness of these options should be developed in consultation with content experts and community organizations that represent persons with lived experience.
29. Enhance information and supports available to families of persons experiencing mental health crisis with respect to community-based options to support their loved ones.
30. Improve public awareness and knowledge of community-based supports for persons experiencing mental health issues should target young people, and utilize channels of communication that are accessible and suitable for youth.
31. Rename crisis hotline services and create awareness campaigns to educate the public about their existence to make the public aware that these services are available before a person reaches the point of crisis. The Government of Ontario should allocate funding and resources adequate to implement the above recommendations.
To Peel Housing Corporation:
32. Improve mental health awareness of housing support personnel, and in particular, concerning the recognition of mental health crisis.
33. Ensure that housing support personnel are aware of both the policing and community-based options available to respond to mental health crisis.
34. Ensure that housing support personnel communicate the options for both the policing and community-based options to address mental health crisis to affected tenants.
35. Review and improve training to housing support personnel on cultural competency, anti-Black racism, implicit bias, mental health and its intersectional nature. Peel Housing Corporation should seek and allocate funding and resources adequate to implement the above recommendations.
Email: [email protected]
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