The Toronto Police Service is revamping its communications policy to ensure the use of "appropriate human rights themed language," and hopes to have guidelines for officers ready by the fall.
The draft policy asks officers to avoid using potentially offensive terms like "mulatto" and "queer," along with cultural identifiers, such as describing a suspect as Portuguese.
"If you describe somebody as Portuguese, it makes the assumption that everybody reading that is going to think of the same thing in their mind's eye as to what a Portuguese person looks like," spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said, noting officers will be encouraged to use "more physical descriptions" of victims or suspects instead.
Sergeant Shawna Coxon of the service's diversity management unit said the new policy will apply to every piece of communication the service puts together, both internal and external. She declined to provide a copy of the guidelines for review, but said the overarching goal is to ensure communities are referred to in a respectful manner.
The document has been evolving over a few years amid ongoing consultations with the community, she noted.
"I don't think any other police service in Canada has anything like that, that gets to the heart of particularized language, even with respect to, for example, descriptions of suspects," Sgt. Coxon said.
Toronto police have struggled with terminology in the past. Just last month, the Canadian Jewish Congress accused the service of pushing anti-hate law "to its most absurd level" by listing "non-Jewish shiksa" -- a redundant slur for a non-Jewish woman -- as a victim category in its latest hate crime study.
Ms. Gray said the guide, which is still in the draft stage and targeted for completion by fall, encourages officers to consider all language they use "with a human-rights lens." It does not contain a list of banned terms, she explained, but rather a framework for communications.
Rather than referring to someone by their ethnicity, she suggests it would be more helpful for officers to use specific physical descriptors, such as hair colour and complexion...Have you ever heard such idiocy? So police will now waste precious time trying to come up with other, less succint and obvious ways to describe a suspect--and potentially put public safety at risk--for what? For the sake of PC twaddle that doesn't protect "human rights" but turns the very concept, to paraphrase Bernie Farber, into an utter absurdity? How does it violate anyone's "rights" to call a Portuguese a Portuguese, a black a black, an Italian Italian, a Jew a Jew? In fact, it violates rationality and common sense not to identify them. But then, as we know from examples like the Fort Hood shooting, when PC comes through the door, common sense flies out the window.
As for "queer," I thought that was a perfectly acceptable term--the first "Q" in the ever-expanding chain of sexuality initials (LGBTTQQ etc.). Or is it okey-dokey solely in the context of Pride parades and Israel-trashing?