TPAC
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
 

Bulletins

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 44, January 14, 2009



January 14 2009

1. The future of policing for Toronto?
2. Testing TASERS
3. Toronto 2009 police operating budget
4. Vaughan joins Police Board
5. Salary settlement



Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 44, January 14, 2009.

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. The future of policing for Toronto?
2. Testing TASERS
3. Toronto 2009 police operating budget
4. Vaughan joins Police Board
5. Salary settlement
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
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1. The future of policing for Toronto?

What police do in New York City often turns out to be the template for policing in Toronto. If Toronto police follow the current lead in New York, there will be a lot more action on the street.

The New York Times report (January 4, 2009, page 21), that in 2008, police there frisked more than 800,000 youths, and more than 80 per cent of those frisked were either black or Latino. Further, only four (4) per cent of those frisked were arrested. Apparently there are few complaints in New York about this kind of racial and age profiling since police say they are doing it to control guns and most people are afraid of guns.

This sounds like the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) program on steroids. It is known that police target certain people they expect to be involved in crime under TAVIS, then go in and search them, often with lots of disruption and no arrests. It seems the police can get away with this because those they go after are the homeless and other vulnerable people. It is also reported by many who work with youth that police often stop and frisk youth of colour, although no figures are available as to how often it happens.

The same New York Times article notes that a study was done on two different years of students at a community college in New York City. It found that 22 of 23 black students said they had been stopped by police at least once in the past year.

When this kind of data is reported without outcry in another large city, it makes one worry about what might be happening here. Toronto police have never decided to look at the actualities of racial profiling as, for instance, was done in Kingston, Ontario a few years ago (see Bulletin No. 3, Sept. 2003). Maybe its time that this happened in Toronto before the New York City experience is adopted as the new modus operandi.

2. Testing TASERS

Taser International claimed that its stun-gun weapons always performed exactly as they were designed to perform, and when some said that the energy emitted was half as high again as Taser said, those claims were dismissed.

But independent tests by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a report titled `The Truth About TASERS have shown that Tasers weapons do, on occasion, perform badly.

The CBC commissioned tests on 41 TASERS manufactured before 2005. All weapons were made available from seven police departments in United States. The CBC noted, Of the 41 TASERS tested, four delivered significantly more current than Taser International says is possible. In some cases, the current was up to 50 per cent stronger than specified on the devices.

The tests, conducted by the U.S.-based lab National Technical Systems, used X26 TASERS from seven police departments in that country. Each weapon was fired at least six times.

The CBC data can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/12/04/taser-tests.html .

Taser first disputed the tests, then decided it should look more closely at the data, since it seemed so compelling.

The reaction of Canadian police forces was not particularly swift, but many forces, including the Toronto police force, agreed to test TASERS manufactured before 2005.

3. Toronto 2009 police operating budget

The 2009 police service operating budget was approved by the Board for submission to City Council in early December. It asks City Council for $843 million, an increase of $25 million over 2008. That amount may be increased in light of the decision of binding arbitration was announced increasing salaries about 10 per cent over three years, which could add another $5 million, for a total of about $30 million more than last year.

Little new is planned by the police for 2008 other than increasing the number of officers to reach a level thats been agreed to in the past. Well get the same kind of policing as in the past, just more expensive.

Documents included with the budget make it clear that virtually all kinds of crime, except gun crime, continues to fall, as it has for the past decade, so it is not as though the police are struggling with some new challenges. Just to make the point, police report that police contact with Toronto residents in the field dropped 8 per in 2008.

As for gun crime, thats mostly a problem about youth and crime. As the recent study `Roots of Youth Violence shows, that problem wont be addressed by police spending, but instead needs social spending attention. Toronto police are making no proposals about contributing to such social spending.

The Toronto Police Services Board held a special session in early December where the public could present its opinions about the budget. Exactly one member of the public showed up to voice an opinion. This, more than anything else, shows the extent to which the community organizations and the public at large has concluded that Police Services Board isnt a body thats about to tinker with what the police service wants, or play any useful role in constraining or redirecting spending.

4. Vaughan joins Police Board

Councillor Adam Vaughan, who represents a downtown ward which includes the entertainment district, Chinatown, the University of Toronto and the Annex, has been appointed to the Police Services Board in place of Mayor David Miller. Vaughan is known as one of the more progressive members of council, without fear of speaking out. He has not made clear whether there are particular issues on which hell focus his work on the Board.

5. Salary settlement

After negotiations about salary between the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Association broke down, the matter was referred to binding arbitration. The new arbitration award provides that a fifth class officer will be the highest paid police officer in the country, making just over $80,000 a year by 2010. Officers start as recruits, many fresh young kids just out of Grade 12 and after a year are appointed fourth class officer, and then they proceed each year up the rank until in year five they become fifth class officer  earning $80,000.

One can feel good for police officers getting well paid, but what about other public services which are being pared back because the city cant offer anything except something very limited? Sooner of later someone is going to have to sort out how we constrain spending on police so we can do provide other services that may be more worthwhile.

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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