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TTC special constables, fare inspectors to wear body cams in pilot

The TTC board is moving forward with a new use of force policy, which includes a nine-month pilot project where 20 special constables and 20 fare inspectors will use body-worn cameras. 

The pilot will get underway some time in the second quarter of this year. The TTC will also put in-car cameras onto 14 special constable vehicles.

The board approved the new policies six years after 26 recommendations were made by the city’s ombudsman. Those recommendations stemmed from an incident where a Black teenager was tackled and pinned to the ground by three TTC fare inspectors on a streetcar platform in February 2018. 

The TTC board adopted the recommendations in that report, but continued to consider body-worn cameras as part of later reports.

The board says approving the updated use of force policy, which the TTC first began public consultations on last December, will emphasize the importance of de-escalation as an alternative to force for special constables.

According to the board’s supplementary report, the TTC’s use of force policy now mirrors the de-escalation policies used by Toronto police.

“We’ve worked with the Ombudsman’s office as well as our external experts to restrict the application of use of force for fare inspectors,” Angela Gibson, head of strategy and foresight at the TTC told board members. “That would mean we will not be using force to enforce fares.”

Advocacy group concerned

It’s something that still doesn’t sit right with transit advocacy group, TTCriders, though. They’re concerned about language that says fare inspectors can use force for self-defence and worry that could extend to an unruly passenger refusing to pay a fare.

“We want clarity that force is not acceptable when someone doesn’t pay their fare,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, director of TTCriders. “We do not want force to be the response when someone does not pay $3.30.”

TTCriders director Shelagh Pizey-Allen wants clarity from the transit commission on what constitutes use of force.
TTCriders director Shelagh Pizey-Allen wants clarity from the transit commission on what constitutes use of force. (CBC)

Gibson says the policy would allow for situations where a customer doesn’t pay to be escalated to special constables or, in rare situations, police.

“The use of force policy removes any ability that a fare inspector could have to physically interact with a customer,” she added.

The TTC’s chair says the transit commission is not in the game of using force to collect fares.

“The policy is pretty distinct in that use of force is not permitted by fare inspectors to stop fare evaders,” Jamaal Myers told CBC News. “The policy does state that. It doesn’t say that explicitly but it is the intent of the policy.”

“They can only use force for self-defence or to protect members of the public.”

Earlier this year, the TTC said fare evasion cost them nearly $124 million last year, with most fare evasion happening on streetcars.

The board’s report says cameras are intended to capture the entire duration of specific incidents and won’t be recording 24/7. Special constables and fare inspectors are obligated to inform individuals during an interaction if they are being recorded.

The use of cameras concerns shelter and housing advocate Diana Chan McNally.

“The presence of body-worn cameras will inevitably, and by design, capture people in their worst moments, which contributes to the systemic over-surveillance of homeless people,” she told board members during Thursday’s meeting.

Funding for the body-worn camera and in-car camera systems are included in the TTC’s 2023-2032 Capital Budget. It amounts to a cost of $1,243,000.

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