Toronto’s interim police chief held his first press conference in his new role on Thursday and took the time to apologize on behalf of the Toronto Police Service in regard to the Dafonte Miller case.
James Ramer took over the role from Mark Saunders, who announced his resignation back in early June. Saunders held the position since April 2015 and was the first Black person to hold the title.
Ramer’s appointment comes at a time when tensions are high between police across North America and the Black community. Calls to defund the police and the need for better services in regard to mental health distress response have been mounting.
Ramer also spoke on behalf of the Miller case, where off-duty Toronto police officer Michael Theriault and his brother Christian were charged with aggravated assault and attempting to obstruct justice for the December 2016 beating of Miller. Both men pleaded not guilty.
Michael was found guilty of assault but not aggravated assault. Christian was found not guilty of aggravated assault.
Both men were acquitted of obstruction of justice.
The interim chief said a report came out from the Office of the Independent Police Review director in regard to the incident. The report is confidential, but Ramer said a copy went to Miller and his family on Thursday.
Ontario’s police watchdog was not informed of the incident — which resulted in Miller losing one of his eyes — until four months after it took place, an action that Ramer said was a wrong decision and he apologized for it on behalf of the Toronto Police Service.
“From now on, we will report every incident involving on and off-duty officers to the SIU (Special Investigation’s Unit),” he said, adding trust was broken between Miller, the police service and the “broader community.”
Ramer said one of his priorities is to better address mental health calls, expand efforts to combat gun and gang violence and improve initiatives under the equity, inclusion and human rights unit.
He said he hopes that by year-end officers will be equipped with body cameras. He said the motion will be brought to the next Toronto Police Services Board meeting.
Toronto Mayor John Tory called Ramer’s comments a step in the right direction towards reforming and repairing trust with the community.
“We know that further action is needed and I know Interim Chief Ramer is committed to working with the Police Services Board and Council on important efforts to continue to modernize the service,” Tory said in a statement.
According to the Toronto Police Service website, Ramer has been a member since 1980. He has also spent time as Staff Superintendent of detective operations and Unit Commander at 22 Division.
Ramer was awarded the 30-year Police Exemplary Service Medal in 2010, was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and in 2019, he was appointed Member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.
Ramer will serve as interim chief until a permanent one is appointed.
—With files from The Canadian Press