A Toronto Transit Commission fare inspector has been suspended while investigations are being conducted into the actions taken by the staffer after a video posted online appears to show a teenager being pinned to the ground.
Bethany McBride filmed part of the incident. She was on a westbound 512 streetcar after getting on at St. Clair West station at around 5 p.m. on Sunday, when she said she saw two fare inspectors on the streetcar. When it reached Bathurst Street, that’s when the incident happened.
“He got grabbed by the fare worker … he reacted defensively, he shoved the fare worker and that resulted in them restraining him and detaining him,” McBride told Global News, adding the other fare inspector came after and helped restrain the boy.
“They took him out of the streetcar (and) detained him on the ground.”
It’s not clear why the inspector detained the teen or what happened right before the incident. McBride added that after the second inspector helped detain the teen, three Toronto police officers came to assist. She said two more officers later attended and put the boy in a cruiser.
She said moments after that happened, that’s when she started filming. The teen, who can partially be seen on the ground surrounded by police and TTC staff, can be heard in the short video screaming, “I didn’t do anything! You’re hurting me! You’re hurting me!
“Everything was really quiet and then all of the sudden there’s this commotion,” McBride said.
She said the boy was wearing headphones and that she didn’t hear anyone call out to him before the incident. McBride said she believes that race may have been a factor in the detainment.
“I feel really strongly that this is a racial issue. I feel like I’m just as capable of committing a crime as any other person and I walked right past these two without a second glance or any acknowledgement,” she said.
“I still very strongly believe had that been me, it would not have happened. Had that been a white man, that would not have happened.”
It was a concern echoed by Toronto councillor and youth advocate Neethan Shan, who posted an open letter on Twitter to Mayor John Tory, TTC and police officials on Thursday. He called for more information “on the process and the interactions.”
“I remain concerned that young people, particularly young people of colour, are being impacted by excessive force and targeting in our city,” Shan wrote.
“I have many questions about oversight and public accountability and the use of excessive force as it impacts racialized youth in the city.”
Tory responded on Twitter Friday afternoon saying he was “deeply disturbed” by what he has read about the incident.
“I share your concern that young people, particular young people from racialized communities, are facing more instances of this kind,” Tory wrote.
“I welcome the fact that three investigations are currently underway into what happened in this case. I believe this will ensure that the public will have a full and transparent accounting of why this occurred and how we can ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
News of the incident prompted the Toronto ombudsman’s office to launch an inquiry. In response to that investigation, acting TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a letter posted on the transit agency’s website that staff will “take all appropriate steps thoroughly address this incident.”
Leary said their transit enforcement unit investigation will focus on alleged violations to its code of conduct, specifically provisions on treating customers without discrimination, assault, being “otherwise uncivil to a member of the public” and using unauthorized force.
He said the TTC has asked Toronto police to investigate as well as “to determine if criminal charges are warranted.” Global News contacted Toronto police for an update, but a spokesperson was unable to advise on the current status of the request. However, Mayor Tory said in his response that he spoke with Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and said he was told police are looking into it.
The fare inspector has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Leary said investigations typically take up to 90 days, but he said staff are looking to expedite the inquiry. The investigation report will be forwarded to senior TTC officials and the agency’s board.
Meanwhile, McBride told Global News Saturday afternoon that she was contacted by TTC officials earlier in the day. She said the incident left her frustrated and upset.
“There was that feeling of overwhelming desire to help and knowing that I couldn’t do anymore than what I was doing,” McBride said.
“On the way home from the altercation, I cried. I called my mom and I called my sister just disgusted with the world and disheartened and concerned for that kid.”
She said she’s upset the inspector has been suspended with pay. McBride also said she wants to know the identities of the inspectors and officers involved and hopes Toronto police get involved.
“I want to see the TTC and Toronto police answer all the questions that have come up and the letters that have been written to them and the mayor by the St. Clair West community,” she said.
McBride said she has a message for the teen who was detained.
“We would love to know that he’s OK and to put out there that we see, we care.”