TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 43, November 2008



November 03 2008

In this issue:
1. Province pours millions into Toronto police force
2. Police in Schools
3. Taser reporting
4. SIU report
5. Environmental Scan



Toronto Police Accountability Coalition Bulletin No. 43, November 3, 2008.

This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
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In this issue:
1. Province pours millions into Toronto police force
2. Police in Schools
3. Taser reporting
4. SIU report
5. Environmental Scan
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. Province pours millions into Toronto police force

Maybe if falls just below the political radar, but no one talks about the astounding amount of money the provincial government pours into the Toronto police force.

In a letter dated August 6, 2008, the Minister of Community Safety and Correction Services, Rick Bartolucci, summarizes $76.1 million that the government has put into the Toronto force since 2003  thats more than $15 million a year. It breaks down this way: $15 million for the TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) program; $37.7 million for Community Policing Partnerships; $13.3 million for Safer Communities  1000 Officers partnership program; $2 million for closed circuit television; $2.34 million for the Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse on the Internet; $4430,000 for RIDE; $200,000 for Safe Schools pilot project; $500,000 for Safe and Vital Communities; $700,00 for Sex Offender Registry.

At the same time, the federal government, as announced in the February 2008 budget, is pouring money into local police forces. Its program `Police Officers Recruitment Fund', puts $400 million over five years into new police officers, of which $156 million goes to Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police will get 125 new officers, municipal forces 164 new officers, and First Nation police services 40 officers. Ontario complains that this money does not fully fund the new officers.

The provincial and federal governments seem to be afflicted by the same disease as city council  if theres a concern about community safety, then throw money at the police. But according to everyone who has looked at the data, the place to spend money to improve community safety is on social and recreation programs for kids and youth. Perhaps doing the right thing is not nearly as politically attractive as expanding police forces.

If this money had been directed at programs for kids and youth rather than at police wed start to make a better and safer communities. Police is usually the last local agency that needs more financial support.

2. Police in Schools

It happened almost overnight without much debate: the police force decided that armed officers would be placed in about 30 Toronto schools. Since one officer costs the public a bit over $100,000 a year, this is a very expensive strategy.

Unfortunately, the move was made without establishing any benchmarks for measuring whether this expenditure would be effective. Does success relate to less violence in schools, and if so how is that measured in different schools? Does it relate to feelings of security among teachers and students, and how would that be measured? We suspect that if offered $100,000 to deal with security and safety issues over the next year, few of those schools would have chosen to spend it on an officer with a gun.

It would be nice to know how to begin a debate on these issues since the School Board has not shown much inclination to do so. Should there be an independent evaluation at the end of the first year? What would the terms of that evaluation be, and who might do it?

3. Taser reporting

In September the Toronto Police Services Board rethought how it might ensure it got full information on the use of tasers by Toronto police. TPAC threw in its ideas based on the fact that almost all those on the receiving end of the taser in Toronto are those in mental or emotional crisis. TPAC asked that police report on whether the person showed signs of distress, and whether and when the mobile crisis intervention unit was called. (TPAC believes the intervention of the MCIU is much preferable to taser use.)The Board was inconclusive about what changes would be made  everything seemed to be referred back to the chief for further comment.

But what is clear is that no report reporting form will capture the full range of how the taser is used. One case that happened two years ago recently came to light in the courts, when a judge dismissed charges of cocaine trafficking because the suspect was tasered while lying naked on the floor, his hands handcuffed behind him. Another case came to light when a civil action was started  police had tasered an autistic man lying in bed who was not obeying police orders to get up and put his hands in the air. Neither of the details of these incidents was included in previous reports. Perhaps we need to include in the standard reporting format some pretty simple questions, such as: was the person clothed or naked? In handcuffs? In bed?

The state of taser use in Canada remains shamefully muddled. It is more than a year since the death of Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver airport after being tasered, but the public inquiry is still to begin. Meanwhile, the RCMP has released a report on taser use, basically asking that RCMP officers be more careful. That depressing report can be found at
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps/cew/kiedrowski_report_e.htm

4. SIU report

`Oversight Unseen is the title of the report by the Ontario Ombudsman on the Special Investigative Unit. The SIU is the provincial body which investigates any serious injury or death caused by police. This is the seventh provincial report on the SIU in the past 16 years, and surely that says something about the last of trust the politicians have in the work of the SIU.

The report makes many recommendations on reconstructing the SIU into a strong functioning organization (see http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/media/30776/siureporteng.pdf ) . but it is also interesting for what it says about the way police relate to the SIU. `Delays in police providing (to the SIU) notice of incidents, in disclosing notes, and in submitting to interviews are endemic. Police interviews (by the SIU) are rarely held with the regulatory timeframes and are all too often postponed  for weeks, sometimes for months.

Most people working with the police are all too familiar with these kinds of reactions, and without a good complaints system in place, they cant be dealt with. The attorney general has (again) indicated the Ombudsmans report will be taken very seriously, and action will be taken as soon as possible. If you use the example of how the provincial government has acted on the question of creating a reasonable complaints mechanism for the public, youll be talking six or seven years.

5. Environmental Scan

The Toronto police force recently released its biannual compendium of data about the force, and it confirms the picture seen in previous years. The number of people arrested in Toronto in 2007 was 52,600 (p. 60). With uniformed strength of 5680 officers (p. 207), that means that there was an average of about 9 arrests per officer per year. (Using the total police force complement of 7600 (p. 207), the average arrest per police employee is just under seven arrests per year.) One third were arrested for crimes of violence (p. 60), and almost three quarters of those crimes of violence were non-sexual assaults (p. 48.) There is considerable evidence (not in the Scan) which indicates about 90 per cent of these assaults do not require hospital treatment. One can conclude that officers do not spend a great deal of time dealing with serious criminal activity.

The number of calls for service to which police were dispatched in 2007 was 854,000 (p. 175). Even in the busiest Division 33 this works out to 200 calls per officer per year, or less than one per officer per shift (p. 64), and the average across the service is 171 calls per officer, or two calls every three shifts (p. 63).

In anyones books, one would call this a very light workload and on page 65 there is a reference to `a diminishing workload per officer. If there are other important police tasks, they should be documented and measured in this Scan.

It seems that to compensate for so little to do, officers have spent more time on each task. Thus the number of officers dispatched to each event has substantially increased in the last decade, and the total time spent on each event has increased 50 per cent in the last decade (p. 179). The average time spent at each personal injury motor vehicle collision has increased to 4.2 hours from three hours a decade ago (p. 155).

Unfortunately, the Environmental Scan is not posted on the police web site, but is only available by purchase ($50.00) from the force.

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

To subscribe, or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca.

Please circulate this Bulletin to friends and colleagues who might share an interest in policing. We appreciate your comments or suggestions for stories which should be sent to info@tpac.ca .

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