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‘It was my tipping point:’ Clarke says Toronto police rejection of Black promotions prompted her misconduct

The first Black female superintendent at the Toronto Police Service says the rejection of her advocacy for promoting Black officers made her feel “invisible” and ultimately contributed to her decision to break the rules in their favour.

In cross-examination before a Toronto Police disciplinary tribunal, Supt. Stacy Clarke repeated her apology for sending exam questions to Black constables in advance.

But in her testimony she also described an environment where Black officers were disadvantaged and a new hiring process that could have made hiring more fair was suddenly cancelled.

“I don’t know how to explain it to you because you may not understand these types of feelings,” she said under cross-examination from TPS lawyer Scott Hutchison. “I was invisible. I was not supposed to be advocating. Not for Black members…. It was my tipping point.”

Clarke said it was after a meeting with senior staff at the TPS that she decided to send questions to help promising Black constables through the promotions system – something she testified she knew was wrong but did anyway in the hopes it would level the playing field.

“This isn’t looking like a level playing field to other officers who didn’t get the answers beforehand,” said Hutchison.

“I don’t know what other officers received,” Clarke replied.

“Are you suggesting that there are other officers involved in cheating, the way you were?” Hutchison asked.

“I’m suggesting the process is unfair,” Clarke said.

Clarke’s lawyer has suggested that some other officers did get a leg up from largely white senior staff, as rumours of others sharing questions were widespread.

Former Mayor John Tory also raised concerns about the low promotion rates for Black officers during a Toronto Police Service board meeting in 2021.

“There may be ways in which we have structured the process of exam and interview that disadvantage some groups,” Tory said at the time.

The tribunal has heard the TPS Board did approve a new process that would supply questions to everyone, but the process was cancelled by the TPS. It’s not clear exactly why; the TPS has said it will not answer questions about why until Clarke’s hearing is over.

“The situation that Stacy Clarke is charged with is an open secret in the community… The questions were shared only among white candidates,” said Kingsley Gilliam of the Black Action Defense Committee outside the hearing. “At the end of the day, the same thing comes down. What they did, is selectively implement what they want and what they don’t want, and the hiring system – they didn’t change it,”

The TPS has said it will not fire Clarke but is seeking to demote her two ranks. She would be reinstated after a year as an inspector and then would have to work her way back to superintendent.

Clarke’s lawyer Joseph Markson, meanwhile, has agreed to a demotion but says Clarke should be reinstated as superintendent after a year.

On Thursday, Clarkson said that the TPS discipline tribunal has never seen a case like Clarke’s and called on it to take Clarke’s subjective experience seriously as a mitigating factor in deciding punishment.

“It’s painful to realize your advocacy for them is dead in the water. Moot. Nonexistent,” Markson said. “No question that perception she formed was real. And it was the tip of an iceberg of pain that came crashing down on her at this time.”

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