A group of more than 50 Toronto-based doctors are demanding the defunding of police, claiming that "policing is a public health crisis."
In response to calls from Black and Indigenous communities to address "systemic racism," Doctors For Defunding Police advocates for the reallocation of police funding to "support response systems" backed by public health research.
Black residents in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot by police than white residents, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, DFDP references.
"We recognize that our healthcare system is complicit in systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and often works in concert with police services, especially as it relates to mental health crises," DFDP states in an open letter on June 25 directed to the Toronto City Council and Mayor John Tory. The group’s inaugural event was held virtually a day later.
Referencing the mental health-related deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ian Pryce, and Andrew Loku, the organization criticizes the use of legal force against those "facing severe social and material deprivation due to structural violence including poverty and marginalization."
"When people are in crisis, we know that what they need is care, not confrontation with an armed officer. We know that the threat of violence exacerbates distress," DFDP urges. Rather, the group says, response care should be in the form of de-escalation, crisis counseling, and resource connections.
"We know that no amount of reform will result in police officers having expertise in any of these areas," DFDP claims.
"We cannot police our way out of systemic racism and systemic poverty," the group continues. "The current budget is not solutions-based, as without a reallocation of resources we cannot build healthy, prosperous and well communities, and we will remain in current cycles."
The organization of healthcare providers demands a list of actions, including "full transparency of the Toronto Police Services budget," an immediate change to use-of-force laws to forbid lethal force and disarm police officers during civilian confrontations, and "new community emergency services."
To date, 620 medical professionals have signed the rolling petition.