Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 46, March 26, 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
In this issue:
1. Brief to Independent Police Review Organization
2. Police making bigger bucks
3. Toronto police budget, letter to city council
4. Law Enforcement Accountability Project
5. Status quo on Tasers
6. Toronto Life documents the Schertzer case
7. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Brief to the Independent Police Review Organization
The Independent Police Review Organization held several consultations in Toronto at the beginning of March to show the kind of organization being established under Bill 103, and to get public feedback. Notification for the consultations was not satisfactory TPAC was not invited, nor were other groups such as the Osgoode Hall law school student run legal aid clinic although we both asked to attend once we learned about it and were then invited.
The Toronto consultations were very sparsely attended. Other consultations were planned in other Ontario centres, and we hope the invitations were sent more widely.
Several TPAC members went to the Toronto hearings, and we came away with the same impressions change was needed if the IPRO is to function well for those who should be filing the most complaints. Here is the brief we filed with the IPRO:
The system being proposed in the 2009 Consultation Documents for the filing and review of complaints against police officers looks, with a few necessary tweaks, appropriate for a world where all parties are reasonable, co-operative, and ready to work on an equal basis. Unfortunately thats not the world of Ontario.
In Ontario, those who would complain about something the police have done to them are usually at the lower end of the income scale; often without many resources; often people of colour; often vulnerable. Police officers, in contrast, are well organized and ready to strongly support fellow officers; represented by a well-funded Police Association which provides legal representation and other resources; and backed by a powerful government bureaucracy. As well, there is enough information available to lead one to the conclusion that the Toronto Police Association often retains private detectives to secretly investigate complainants.
Given this imbalance in power, it is not unreasonable to assume that unless changes are made, the kind of complaints system proposed by the IPRO will not serve well the very people who are mostly likely to have valid complaints against the police and should be registering those complaints. Those individuals will most likely decide it is not worthwhile complaining; that the complaint will not be fairly investigated; that no reasonable reprimand will happen if the complaint is upheld; that there may be consequences for making a complaint.
It would be most unfortunate if that happens; and it would indicate that the system was not successfully structured. This brief makes several proposals to address these issues.
One method of assisting those who are thinking about making a complaint is to provide them with someone whose job it is to help them through the process an advocate. This advocate would make it clear that s/he would be the main contact for that person at IPRO; would help with drafting the complaint; and once it was filed would support the complainant at each step along the way. Advocates for complainants is a good way to help balance out the inequality of power.
Another way of assisting those thinking about making a complaint is by formally engaging the organizations they could be expected to rely on especially community organizations and social agencies. Individuals will have confidence in making a complaint if they know that the organization they are part of is engaged in the process and will assist and support the complainant. We believe that your office should contract with organizations and agencies in appropriate neighbourhoods so they can free up staff time to work on these matters. We know that the experience of the Scadding Court Centre was that the assistance of local agencies was critical in the complaint process. This must be built into the way in which your office functions, and while it incurs a cost, we believe the cost is well warranted.
The third way of assisting those thinking about making a complaint is to be very flexible in regard to the acceptance of third party complaints. The Independent Police Complaints Commission in the United Kingdom provides the example which should be followed here in Ontario. The website address is:
The conditions for making a complaint in the UK model are pretty broad; you merely have to have been "present when the alleged inappropriate conduct took place." And the additional conditions make it clear that even if you weren't present but were "distressed" by the incident, you can complain. Moreover, note that the door is open to advocates or "organizations" to make complaints.
A narrow definition of allowable third party complaints such as the IPRO proposes, means that the old system remains pretty much as it was, while a UK style definition would allow individuals to get help from both other people, advocates, and interested organizations. This is exactly the kind of understanding of third party complaints that Ontario needs. We urge an expansive rather than a restrictive definition of third party complaints.
We believe these three proposals should be incorporated into the way in which the IPRO operates in Ontario.
2. Police making bigger bucks.
Public sector salary disclosure legislation requires that the police service report on the number of individuals in the police employ who are paid $100,000 or more each year. In 2008, 1,006 employees of the Toronto police service earned more than $100,000. The report notes this includes 628 staff whose base salary is normally under $100,000, but went over that amount when their base pay was combined with premium pay (for court appearances), overtime, and call backs. Not included in this amount is duty pay for occasions when officers work for others such as directing traffic around construction sites, private clubs, etc. One can assume if duty pay were included, the number earning over $100,000 would jump to 1500.
By way of comparison, the number earning more than $100,000 four years ago, in 2004, was 250, and in 2006, 708. (See Bulletin No. 18, March 2005; and Bulletin No. 37, September 2007.) Thus the number of highly paid officers is climbing rapidly. Four years ago, about 3.5 per cent of all uniformed and civilian staff earned more than $100,000; in 2008, that figure increased to more than 14 per cent.
It would be difficult to find any other public institution in Canada with such a large per centage of such highly paid employees.
3. Toronto police budget, letter to city council.
TPAC has written members of city council concerning the police budget, which will be before Council for approval in the next ten days. Heres the letter:
`Its time that Toronto City Council and the people of Toronto say enough is enough. The City of Torontos finances are in crisis, our property taxes are going up, everyone is worried about jobs, yet the police budget rolls merrily along, unthreatened by criticism or serious scrutiny.
Of this years $3.4 billion net operating budget, $855 million about 25 per cent - will go to the police. This is an increase of 4 percent over the 2008 police net budget, which was a 5 percent increase over the 2007 budget, which was a 4.5 percent increase over the 2006 figure . . . well, you get the point. (In fact it is about 30 per cent more than the 2004 net budget of $677 million.)
The stock market may rise and fall, the temperature may go up and down, the tide may come in and out. But the police budget goes only one way - UP. This must change.
Lets begin with some simple facts.
According to Police Resources, (Statistics Canada, 2008), in 2007 Toronto taxpayers paid more per person for policing than any other big city in Canada -- $334 per capita for Toronto, followed by $330 for Vancouver and $296 for Montreal.
Toronto also has more police per capita than other big Canadian cities, except for Montreal. In 2007 Montreal had 239 officers for every 100,000 in population, followed by Toronto with 209, Winnipeg with 201, Edmonton with 176, Calgary with 156 and Vancouver with 133.
And the crime rate is going down it has been going down for the last ten years.
Further, Statistics Canada figures show that in Toronto in 2007, the crime rate including all Criminal Code incidents, was the lowest of all Canadian cities with a population of more than 500,000. (In fact Torontos crime rate is lower than all cities with a population of more than 100,000.)
One should not jump to the assumption that the more police we have the lower the crime rate. Crime rates have dropped everywhere in North America over the past few years, and those rates show no direct relation to the number of police.
But do any of these statistics lead the Police Services Board or their political masters to ask whether it is time to curb police expenditures and hold the line on the number of police we hire? Not at all.
In fact, the police budget before you calls for an increase in the number of police officers. The police service plans not only to replace all officers who leave the force or who retire, but also to increase the number of officers from 5477 (the number on staff at the beginning of the year) to 5540, the total number in the approved establishment.
They say we need police in our schools and in the TTC. Forget that our schools would benefit infinitely more from social workers than police, or that it is impossible to police every subway car or bus in Toronto, even if the focus was on hotspots.
Its time, therefore, for the members of city council to take a long, hard look at the Toronto police services and ask whether we really need to replace every retiring officer on a one-to-one basis and whether the number of officers should actually be increased this year.
We believe there is no good reason to increase spending for police in this manner. The money would be better spent on other priorities, whether it is the programs outlined by Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling in their `Roots of Youth Violence Report, on improved recreation and social programs for youth, or on many of the other needs of the city.
The police should not be exempt from the hard-eyed scrutiny applied to all other city services in this time of financial crisis. At some point city council must get more serious about containing police spending. Now is the time to act.
Reduce the allocation to the Toronto Police Service so that Torontos spending and Torontos officer/population ratio is more in line with other large cities in Canada.
4. Law Enforcement Accountability Project
The Law Enforcement Accountability Project ("LEAP") is a student-led research institute at the Law School, University of Windsor, which began in early February. It operates under the leadership Professor David M. Tanovich (his recent book is The Colour of Justice, Policing Race in Canada) who has written widely on policing and criminal law issues. With a student director, the initiative uses student researchers and volunteers to look at issues. The first matter being reviewed is the policies of one (not identified) Ontario police force on racial profiling.
LEAPs web site is (http://uwindsor.ca/units/law/LEAP.nsf/inToc/3328AF8038C699E88525755100708B61?OpenDocument)
and the project has a blog, http://windsorlaw-leap.blogspot.com/. Current comments on the blog include the recommendation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission that police forces should begin collecting data by race in order to address racial profiling issues, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal story that Tasers to the head can cause seizures.
5. Status quo on Tasers
In late February the two leading police organizations in the country, Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, issued a statement wondering what all the fuss was about Tasers. They said there is no evidence, either scientific or medical, that a conducted energy weapon has been the direct cause of death anywhere, at any time, on any person. As for the almost 400 people in North America that died after a Taser was used, they argued no direct link had been proven to the Taser. There was a whiff of the early days of the tobacco companies defending themselves against the claim that cigarettes caused cancer.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of the RCMP, William Elliott, announced new guidelines which had been put in place last June. Tasers must only be used where it is necessary to do so in circumstances of threats to officer or public safety. It seems broad enough to allow almost unfettered use. See http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/news-nouvelles/speeches-discours/2009-02-12-commiss-secu-eng.htm .
In Toronto, Chief Blair released data on the use of Tasers in Toronto in 2008. Last year 454 Tasers were issued to supervisors and the Emergency Task Force, and they used them 367 times more than twice as often as in 2006 (See Bulletin No. 35, May 2007.) About 40 per cent of the time, the person involved was in mental crisis or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In past years, this number was much higher, but no explanation is given for the decrease: are Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams being used more often? The chief reports that no injuries occurred because of Taser use by Toronto officers.
The full report may be found on the Police Service Boards web site, as part of the Board agenda for March 30, 2009, http://www.tpsb.ca/documents/agendadoc.pdf .
6. Toronto Life documents the Schertzer case.
One of the more interesting intrigues in the Toronto police service is the role of detective John Schertzer, who headed up several drug squads, was subject to a handful of internal investigations, and finally faced (with five of his police colleagues) a number of criminal charges which were dismissed when the judge said the process had taken too long. CBC Radio says it is the largest police corruption scandal in Canadian history.
An article by Derek Finkle in the April issue of Toronto Life outlines the story, claiming that the investigations into Schertzers activities cost upwards of $50 million. It is an invigorating read with a conclusion that is full of despair.
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