“Today’s verdict in the tragic case of Dafonte Miller brings to a close another chapter in the disturbing case of what happened to this young citizen of our community in an altercation with an off-duty officer from another police service more than three years ago.
We must acknowledge and respect the deep anger this event caused for many in our community. Sadly, we cannot undo events of the past, nor erase the suffering this incident inflicted on a young man and his family. But we must learn from our mistakes, fix flaws in our policing when we identify them, and commit to doing whatever is necessary to earn the trust of the citizens we serve every day.
We didn’t need a trial, in this case, to tell us something was broken in the system, and we didn’t wait for a final court judgment to begin correcting those problems. First, we immediately changed the process for calling in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a provincial law enforcement agency that exists precisely to provide independent investigations of incidents involving police officers and civilians that have resulted in serious injury. At the time of this event, provincial regulations stipulated that the off-duty officer’s own police service had sole discretion in deciding whether to call in the Special Investigations Unit. Six months after Mr. Miller was injured, it was his own lawyer who notified the SIU of the incident.
It was clear to me that the regulations did not serve the best interests of justice, the victim, or our community. I, therefore, notified the Attorney General of Ontario that, in the future, this department would follow a different procedure to engage the SIU, a procedure I believe is more transparent and accountable.
Let me repeat here what I said at the time: “To be absolutely clear: From here on, if a conflict between one of our citizens and a police officer takes place in our community, and the incident meets the criteria for calling in the Special Investigations Unit, then I will do so. There will be no exceptions: if the officer is from our police service the procedure will apply. If they are from another Service, the procedure will apply, on duty or off. Whatever happens in Durham will be the responsibility of the Durham Regional Police Service. As the Chief, I guarantee it.”
We have also made a number of other changes. For example, this month alone we have announced four initiatives aimed at enhancing the accountability of our policing and continuing to work towards becoming a fully equitable and inclusive organization. Those initiatives are:
Race-based data: The Province mandates the collection of race-based data for the ‘Use of Force’ interactions. Some Services have chosen to expand this collection to other interactions. In July, we will begin this process here in order to shine a light on the approximately 500,000 other interactions that we have with the public each year.
Transparency: Community members will soon be invited to participate in DRPS recruitment and promotion interviews, and in policy reviews. We believe that providing a first-hand understanding of how we handle hiring, leadership and internal processes will help to enhance public trust in our Service.
Duty-to-intervene training: Internally, every day, all of our employees have a duty to call out bad behavior when they see it. That is why we will be implementing regular equity and inclusion-related programs to ensure these skills are kept current and are always at the forefront of our daily routines.
Demographic census: In September, we will launch an internal demographic census of the composition of our organization, in order to identify areas of concern and disparities in our work toward becoming an equitable and inclusive organization.
While Dafonte Miller’s tragic altercation involved an officer from another police service not under my command, it was nonetheless a wake-up call to all of us who pride ourselves on being an ethical and accountable police service. Every day, the men and women of this Service go to work for the community, knowing they have to earn the confidence of all citizens. That has been a guiding principle in the past, and it will remain our commitment to this community going forward”.